In a dramatic turn of events, attorneys representing the infamous Alex Murdaugh, convicted of heinous murders and entangled in a web of financial deceit, have hurled accusations of jury tampering against a court official. Seeking the removal of a seasoned circuit court judge, they've now escalated their legal maneuvers by petitioning for a change of venue or a delay in Murdaugh's imminent trial for financial crimes.
Despite receiving two life sentences for the grisly murders of his wife and child in June 2021, Murdaugh's legal saga continues, encompassing over a hundred charges related to finance and narcotics. The disgraced former lawyer from South Carolina is slated to confront the initial wave of financial accusations in the Beaufort County Court of General Sessions during the week commencing November 27.
However, in a bold move unveiled on Monday, Murdaugh's legal team, led by Richard Harpootlian and Jim Griffin, submitted a motion to the S.C. State Grand Jury in Beaufort County, pressing for a relocation of the trial's jurisdiction or a postponement of proceedings.
The legal filing highlights the "unprecedented media frenzy" surrounding the televised double murder trial in Walterboro, a spectacle witnessed by millions and even the inspiration for multiple documentaries and two recent cinematic productions. Murdaugh's legal team contends that this extensive publicity might severely sway the prospects of a fair trial for their client.
According to the motion, a staggering 147 pretrial juror questionnaires have already been submitted, revealing that these potential jurors possess significant "prior knowledge" concerning Murdaugh and the slew of criminal allegations against him.
In the event a change of venue is granted, state law allows for the trial's relocation within the 14th Judicial Circuit, potentially transferring it to another county or assembling a jury from different regions in South Carolina and transporting them to Beaufort County. This possibility is cited in the motion. However, Murdaugh's legal team argues against a venue change within the 14th Circuit, contending that Beaufort, Hampton, Jasper, Colleton, and Allendale counties have all been equally steeped in the pervasive media coverage surrounding the case.
Suggesting an alternative, Murdaugh's counsel proposes the relocation of the trial to an Upstate South Carolina county, acknowledging that the media climate might still be intense there. Nevertheless, they express a preference for a continuance. Their motion advocates for postponing any and all financial crimes trials by at least a year following the conclusion of the murder trial, deeming it a more prudent course of action.
Richard Harpootlian and Jim Griffin assert that there's no urgency to proceed with Murdaugh's state court trial, given his previous guilty plea to similar federal charges, awaiting sentencing there. Meanwhile, the unresolved and significant aspects of Murdaugh's legal entanglements persist.
Despite his murder conviction, Murdaugh has appealed to the higher courts, putting forth accusations of jury tampering against Rebecca Hill, the Colleton County Clerk of Court, while also demanding a new trial. Additionally, he's recently filed a motion in state court seeking a hearing to pursue a new murder trial. Simultaneously, a motion has been lodged with the S.C. Supreme Court to disqualify Judge Clifton Newman from overseeing any further proceedings involving Murdaugh, given his involvement in the prior murder trial and sentencing.
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