Murdaugh defense says state has recordings from just before killings

Published: Aug. 23, 2022 at 2:28 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 23, 2022 at 4:13 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Alex Murdaugh’s defense team says prosecutors have audio and video recordings taken a short time before Murdaugh’s wife and son were shot to death.

The claim comes in response to a prosecution motion for a blanket protective order the defense team says would restrict their use of the evidence, violating Murdaugh’s constitutional rights.

In that filing, Murdaugh’s attorneys allege that agents with the State Law Enforcement Division, “acting at the direction of the Attorney General’s Office, played portions of a video and audio recording obtained from Paul’s phone to Murdaugh’s family members.”

The defense says it believes the recording was shown to the family without obtaining an order authorizing the disclosure of the information to potential witnesses or third parties.

“In any event, on the recording, Paul is taking a video of his friend’s dog, who Paul was concerned about,” the documents state. “Apparently, a conversation between Maggie, Paul and Alex is also captured on this recording. Family members report that Maggie, Paul and Alex are having a convivial conversation about the behavior of their own dog, Bubba. There is absolutely no indication of a disagreement or dispute between Paul, Maggie, and Alex, according to family members who viewed the recording. However, the State contends that within minutes after this convivial, light-hearted conversation, Alex murdered both Maggie and Paul for no apparent reason.”

The defense also claims a news story about the recording did not include any information about the nature of the conversation and how “incongruent the tone and tenor of the conversation is to the State’s theory of the case.”

“Perhaps this crucial information was intentionally omitted from the media leak to portray Alex Murdaugh in the worst possible light,” the documents state. “Regardless, the State has disclosed this information in violation of this Court’s order sealing the search warrant application and the materials obtained in the searches.”

The defense goes on to allege that now that the time has come for the Attorney General’s Office to disclose a “mountain of evidence” against their client, the Attorney General “refuses to comply with his discovery obligations until the Court imposes a gag order and other restrictions” on Murdaugh and his attorneys.

Murdaugh’s attorneys call the state’s claim that the motion is “only intended to prevent the dissemination of any evidence in this case except as is necessary for the state and defense to prepare for and litigate any hearings and trial” hypocritical.

“For months on end, the state’s prosecutors have selectively leaked information about evidence obtained through sealed search warrants to various media outlets,” the defense states.

They say any reports about an audio recording from Paul Murdaugh’s phone that allegedly places Alex Murdaugh at the scene of the murders would have been obtained through a search warrant issued under seal. That seal, they say, would prohibit the disclosure of information obtained from these searches.

The state, in its motion for the protective order, argued the case has generated significant public attention and that evidence in the case “contains sensitive information which should remain protected unless and until it is used in court.” Prosecutors also say a standard state grand jury protective order already exists for state grand jury evidence and as some of it is relevant to the murder cases, “it makes sense for all of the evidence to be handled pursuant to the similar rules.”

Attorney General’s Office spokesman Robert Kittle said the office did not have a comment on the defense’s claims, referring questions to the state’s motion for the protective order, which read in part:

The state has no desire to preclude the defense from any discovery and has every intent of moving this case to a public trial as soon as praticeable. As soon as the two discovery issues are addressed and the court green lights it, discovery will be sent. For these reasons, the state moves for issuance of an order unsealing search warrants in this case as well as a temporary protective order pending this court’s decision as to whether it should be made permanent.