Chase Laundenslager reports, Photos: Murdaugh lawyers claim state destroyed evidence, dispute blood spatter results, The Murdaugh Investigation:
COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Lawyers for disgraced former attorney and accused murderer Alex Murdaugh filed a motion Wednesday asking the court to exclude what they claim is “false testimony about evidence destroyed by the state.” The motion was filed in the trial against him for the murders of his wife and son.
The dispute focuses on the shirt that Murdaugh was wearing the night of June 7, 2021, when he found Margaret and Paul shot to death at their Colleton County property. Nearly one year later, Murdaugh was charged for the murders.
Forensic analysis of the shirt is some of the only public evidence thus far that the state has provided as reasoning for charging Murdaugh.
Murdaugh’s lawyers argue that initial analysis of the shirt conducted by a blood spatter expert found no evidence of blood spatter.
A February 3, 2022 draft report by Tom Bevel, the blood spatter expert contracted by the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), found that “the stains on the white t-shirt are consistent with transfers and not back spatter from a bullet wound.” The analysis was based on photos of the shirt taken by SLED during the investigation. However, the report noted that “for there to be little to no back spatter on the shooter or they’re [SIC] clothing is certainly possible for this incident.”
Murdaugh had admitted to touching the bodies when he found them. DNA tests confirmed the likely presence of Margaret and Paul — as well as other unknown individuals’ — DNA on the shirt, however Murdaugh’s lawyers pointed out that some of the tests used are unable to distinguish DNA from the blood from DNA that previously existed on the shirt.
Bevel asked to review the actual shirt as opposed to photos, so agents brought the evidence to him in March for a second examination. Bevel’s March 29, 2022 report found that “some of the stains on the white t-shirt are consistent with transfers and 100+ stains are consistent with spatter.” However, state prosecutors admitted that despite having the physical shirt, Bevel was unable to gather any information from it because it had been destroyed by various tests conducted by SLED. The results of the second examination were determined using the same photos of the shirt used in the first examination.
Murdaugh’s lawyers said that they were unaware the shirt had been destroyed, and they requested it be sent to a third party for analysis. The state allegedly responded saying that would be impossible because the shirt had “turned black.”
The motion claimed that the destruction of the shirt was either bad faith or gross negligence. The defense acknowledged that analysis of the shirt may require some actions that alter its state — for example, cutting parts to be analyzed and conducting chemical tests to identify blood or DNA — but there are ways to preserve the integrity of the evidence while conducting those tests.
Likewise, Murdaugh’s lawyers pointed to a HemaTrace tests conducted on the shirt by SLED prior to its destruction. The test is “highly sensitive, able to detect as little as four micrograms of blood in a sample.” All of the shirt samples submitted tested negative for human blood. That test was conducted in August of 2021, but Bevel was not called in to examine for blood spatter until 2022. The defense questioned why the state would call in a blood spatter expert to examine a shirt that their own test indicated had no traces of human blood.
According to Murdaugh’s lawyers, the destruction of the shirt violated Murdaugh’s due process rights “because the shirt possessed an exculpatory value apparent before it was destroyed, and he cannot obtain other evidence of comparable value by any other means.”
Murdaugh is set to stand trial for the murders in January of 2023.
Update: Alex Murdaugh’s Banker Found Guilty of Wire and Bank Fraud reported by KC Wildmoon
November 23, 2022 at Crime Online:
A South Carolina banker has been found guilty for his part in disgraced South Carolina legal scion Alex Murdaugh’s schemes to defraud clients of parts of their legal settlements.
A federal jury convicted former Palmetto State Bank CEO Russell Laffitte on wire and bank fraud charges. Each of the six charges carries a maximum sentence of up to 30 years in prison, CBS News reported.
Lafitte, 51, is free on bail until sentencing.
Laffitte’s trial was the first related to the downfall of Murdaugh, whose father, grandfather, and great-grandfather served as the elected solicitor in the area for nearly 90 consecutive years.
Murdaugh, 54, has been charged with killing his wife and son in June 2021. Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were found shot to death on the family’s hunting property in Colleton County, as CrimeOnline has reported. As investigators began looking at the murders, Alex Murdaugh’s fraud schemes began to surface, and he now faces almost 100 counts relating to money laundering, drug, charges, stealing from clients and his law firm, and a botched suicide for hire scheme.
The investigation has cost him his law license and his freedom — he’s being held on a $7 million bond.
Laffitte testified in his own behalf during his trial, telling the jury that Murdaugh duped him into helping with the multi-million dollar schemes, according to CBS.
“He admits to doing it all,” defense attorney Matt Austin said in his closing statement. “He just doesn’t think he was committing a crime.”
Prosecutors countered that the scheme needed both to succeed.
“None of this would have happened without Alex Murdaugh, but none of it could have happened without the defendant,” Emily Limehouse said in her closing statement.
Lafitte, whose family built Palmetto State Bank, was fired last year. His family and the Murdaugh family are both old money Hampton County, South Carolina, families that built dynasties. CBS said that more than a third of the witnesses in Lafitte’s trial were members of his own family, most of whom testified for the prosecution.
Lafitte was convicted on one count each of bank fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy, and three counts of misapplication of bank funds. He still faces 21 counts of financial crimes in state court.
Dick Harpootlian Drops Bombshell Motion – Murdaugh Court Hearing:
Recently, we reported that the prominent South Carolina attorney, Richard Alexander Murdaugh is in jail facing charges for breaching of trust with fraudulent intent, money laundering, computer crimes, forgery, a scheme to commit suicide, insurance fraud, obtaining goods by false pretenses, obtaining property by false pretenses, and a scheme to defraud the victim. Combined, the alleged total of what Murdaugh is said to have scammed from the victims is $8,875,944.45.
Murdaugh may be the monster that they say he is. I don’t personally know him or believe every report that I read. Still, the case is intriguing because something is just so off about it.
Finally, someone is taking a good look at the evidence and how the media reports what is going on with Alex Murdaugh’s case. A friend sent a video of eegreenwood54 combing through the judicial overreach, rubber stamps, extortion, and insurance fraud in Murdaugh’s case.
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