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Judge likely to hear pre-trial motion on motive in Alex Murdaugh case

Defense team filed motion to exclude testimony on the State's reason for Alex Murdaugh's motive to kill his wife and younger son
Credit: Pool/jboucher@thestate.com
Dick Harpootlian speaks passionately over pre-filed motions and how his client does not have a motive for murder as Creighton Waters listens before Alex Murdaugh’s trial for murder at the Colleton County Courthouse on Tuesday, January 24, 2023.

COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. — As the Colleton County Courthouse reopens  Wednesday, Judge Clifton Newman may hear a pre-trial motion brought by Alex Murdaugh’s defense team regarding the state’s declaration that Murdaugh’s motive for killing his wife Maggie and his younger son Paul was to gain a continuance of a motion to compel discovery in a civil case.

That civil case was the wrongful death case of Mallory Beach. Beach was killed in a boating accident on Feb. 23, 2019, after an evening out with friends, including 20-year-old Paul Murdaugh. Allegedly, Paul was drunk, having borrowed his older brother’s ID to obtain alcohol, and was the person driving the boat at the time of the fatal crash.

Alex Murdaugh was one of the defendants in the Beach case and the prosecuting attorney, Mark Tinsley, had filed a motion to compel a financial statement showing that, if Tinsley won the case for the Beach family, Murdaugh would be able to pay damages. It is the state's position that the stress of facing a Friday deadline to file the financial statement in the Beach case and the fact that Alex Murdaugh's own law firm confronted him that same Friday in regard to his alleged embezzlement of funds was enough to create a motive for murder in Alex's state of mind. The state believes Murdaugh killed Maggie and Paul because the civil case was about to expose decades of his lies, history of embezzlement and financial misdeeds.

The judge in the Beach case never handed down a ruling regarding Alex Murdaugh before the murders of Maggie and Paul.

The State would be putting Tinsley on the stand to testify as to how the judge in the Beach case would rule on the motion to compel.

Murdaugh’s defense team argues Tinsley has no direct knowledge of how the judge would rule on a motion and the State cannot bootstrap an argument on how the judge in the Court of Common Pleas would have ruled on a pending motion into an argument about Alex Murdaugh’s “state of mind” regarding how the court would have ruled. Tinsley’s testimony should be inadmissible, argues the defense team.

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