A state judge in South Carolina has determined that disgraced and disbarred South Carolina attorney Richard “Alex” Murdaugh should stand trial in the murders of his wife and youngest son at the beginning of next year, prosecutors announced.
Chief Administrative Fourteenth Circuit Judge Bentley Price issued a scheduling order Tuesday slating the trial to begin on Jan. 30, 2023 and last until Feb. 17, 2023, an estimated duration of three weeks. According to a press release from the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office, Judge Clifton Newman will preside over the case, which will take place at the Colleton County Courthouse.
Murdaugh’s attorneys reportedly sought for the trial to begin as early as this month, though prosecutors reportedly said that the state needed until at least January to prepare its prosecution.
Murdaugh stands accused of killing his 52-year-old wife Maggie Murdaugh with a rifle and his 22-year-old son Paul Murdaugh with a shotgun on June 7, 2021. He was indicted in July for the alleged double murder, which authorities say took place at the Lowcountry family’s 1,770-acre hunting estate in Colleton County.
Murdaugh claims he found his family already deceased when he returned to the estate that evening and called 911. He has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges levied against him.
In announcing the indictment, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) Chief Mark Keel described the state’s search for the killer as relentless over the course of just more than a year.
“Over the last 13 months, SLED agents and our partners have worked day in and day out to build a case against the person responsible for the murders of Maggie and Paul and to exclude those who were not,” Keel said. “At no point did agents lose focus on this investigation. From the beginning I have been clear, the priority was to ensure justice was served. Today is one more step in a long process for justice for Maggie and Paul.”
In seeking a protective order in the proceedings, prosecutors with the state attorney general’s office argued that the case represents an “unprecedented” convergence of violent crime and law license “corruption.”
“This case is unique, it’s unprecedented in South Carolina history, inasmuch as it combines violent crime with alleged corruption of someone’s law license on a scale that’s never been seen before,” state grand jury prosecutor Creighton Waters said during an August hearing.
Waters added that it would be difficult to imagine a more appropriate case for a protective order than one with the “intense media interest” the Murdaugh case engendered.
“None of this is to preclude a public trial,” Waters emphasized. “Everything will come out in the open. All this is meant to do is have it come out when it’s supposed to, and that’s in this courtroom.”
Murdaugh in August was also indicted for alleged fraud and money laundering crimes. A trial date has not been set in those cases.
Law&Crime reached out to Murdaugh’s counsel for comment.
“We appreciate the Court accommodating our request for a speedy trial. Alex is looking forward to his day in court and we are confident that he will be acquitted after an impartial Colleton County jury considers all the evidence,” attorneys Jim Griffin and Dick Harpootlian said in a statement. “Alex continues to hope that everyone responsible for Maggie and Paul’s death will eventually be brought to justice.”
As Law&Crime has reported, the Murdaugh family is a noted dynasty in South Carolina’s legal community. Paul Murdaugh’s grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great grandfather served as elected prosecutors in South Carolina’s Lowcountry region. Alex Murdaugh’s online biography described him as a “part-time Prosecutor for the 14th Judicial Circuit,” though — unlike previously generations of his family — he was never elected to such a post.
Murdaugh was disbarred in July.
Matt Naham, Adam Klasfeld, and Aaron Keller contributed to this story.
[Image via WYFF]
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