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In yet another pre-trial hearing for disgraced South Carolina legal scion Alex Murdaugh, his defense accused the prosecution of withholding more evidence and failing to investigate alternate suspects in the murders of his wife and son.
Murdaugh, 54, is accused of killing his wife, Margaret "Maggie" Murdaugh, 52, and son, Paul Murdaugh, 22, at the family's hunting compound on June 7, 2021. (It's one of only a number of crimes with which he is currently charged.) His trial on the charges is due to begin in January, but Murdaugh's lawyers, Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin, have filed motions and made arguments alleging that the prosecution is both slow-walking the required discovery process and failed to investigate many other leads.
As part of those arguments, Harpootlian revealed in court on Friday that there was unknown DNA found under Maggie Murdaugh's fingernails after the murder but, in the 15 months since, they have yet to identify it, according to Law & Crime.
"There’s unidentified DNA under Maggie Murdaugh’s fingernails," Harpootlian told the court. "They indicted him months ago, and now they’re telling us there’s still, for instance, DNA ."
"They’re still looking at DNA!" he added. "At what point do they stop investigating this case?”
Harpootlian's comments about the prosecution's failure to identify the DNA under Maggie Murdaugh's fingernails — more than three months after Alex Murdaugh was indicted and 15 months after the murders — is just one of many arguments he's made in pretrial hearings that indicate the defense believes the prosecution has ignored other suspects in the case.
On Friday, Harpootlian and Griffin filed a motion to obtain more information on a polygraph exam police conducted on Murdaugh's alleged drug dealer Curtis “Fast Eddie” Smith. Smith and Murdaugh were indicted on money laundering charges in June, and were indicted last November for allegedly staging Murdaugh's suicide attempt to look like a mugging in order to defraud an insurer.
Murdaugh's lawyers say the polygraph shows Smith failed to answer honestly when asked whether he killed Maggie and Paul Murdaugh or was present when they were killed. Murdaugh's lawyers also state that investigators failed to confirm Smith's alleged alibi in a timely fashion.
Court records additionally reflect that Smith provided police with his own theory of the crime prior to the polygraph, which Murdaugh's lawyers also say that investigators failed to try to prove or disprove.
In Smith's retelling, Maggie Murdaugh was having an affair with an unnamed groundskeeper when Paul caught the two of them in an intimate moment.
"Paul went down into one of the barns and caught him and he got upset and he went and got his rifle and was hollering and screaming," Smith told investigators during his polygraph. "His mama was running and she fell down and she got up, he shot her in the ass and the bullet come out the top of her head."
Investigators say that Maggie Murdaugh was shot multiple times with a semi-automatic rifle, including twice at close range while she was lying on the ground, according to FITS News.
In Smith's recounting, the groundskeeper had grabbed a shotgun during the altercation between Paul and his mother, and shot Paul after he turned on the groundskeeper.
Paul, investigators say, died of two shotgun wounds: one to the head, and one to his arm and chest.
According to Smith, the unnamed groundskeeper then fled.
It's unclear from Harpootlian's filings how Smith explained acquiring his alleged knowledge about the groundskeeper and how the murders supposedly happened. But, the filing notes, the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) didn't conduct tests on Maggie or Paul's clothing to prove or disprove Smith's claims.
Harpootlian and Griffin have asked the courts to force the prosecution to test Smith's DNA against DNA found at the crime scene, or to let defense experts do so.
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