COLUMBIA, SC – Lawyers for accused double murderer Alex Murdaugh have asked a state judge to bar testimony in court about “blood spatter patterns” on Murdaugh’s T-shirt and want copies of all communications released between the state and one of his witnesses.
In a 96-page filing filed Wednesday in the Colleton County Criminal Court, attorneys Dick Harpootlin and Jim Griffin allege that an April leak allegedly by a state scientific witness to “high-velocity impact spatter” was wrongfully linked to the news FitsNews website.
The motion also alleges that “the state,” that is, prosecutors or investigators, “maliciously” destroyed evidence that the defense claimed helped establish Murdaugh’s innocence.
The attorney general’s office, whose prosecutors are handling the murder case, said later Wednesday, “We will file our response with the court next week.”
“We are reviewing the application and will respond in due course,” said Chief Mark Keel of the State Law Enforcement Division, or SLED.
The “leaked” evidence contained in news reports citing sources, Harpootlian and Griffin say, came from Tom Bevel, a retired Oklahoma City police officer who runs Bevel, Gardner & Associates Inc.
Bevel, the attorneys write, “has a degree in criminal justice but no academic qualifications in any academic discipline.”
“The state led Mr. Bevel to believe that the white cotton T-shirt that Mr. Murdaugh wore the night Maggie and Paul were murdered was stained with high-velocity blood spatter, most likely from the shooting of Paul.” , write the lawyers.
However, they argue that SLED’s “confirming blood test results for human blood were negative in areas of the shirt where Mr. Bevel believes there is blood spatter,” they say in their filing.
Furthermore, SLED’s DNA reports on the shirt do not identify Paul’s DNA on the shirt, and the motion argues “excludes Paul as a contributor to DNA found on two such sections of the shirt.”
“Neither the defense nor Mr. Bevel could test the shirt because the state destroyed it,” the motion reads. “Mr. Bevel’s first report to the State was emphatic that the shirt contained no stains related to spatter on the back from a gunshot.
“But for some reason, without further evidence, after a personal visit from SLED lead investigator David Owen, he completely changed his mind and now says the shirt has over 100 stains that match spatter from a gunshot on the back.”
Harpootlian, reached Wednesday, declined to comment on the request.
Murdaugh is accused of killing his wife Maggie and youngest son Paul on the night of June 7, 2021 at the family’s 1,700-acre Colleton County estate known as Moselle. Murdaugh has pleaded not guilty to the charges and remains in prison in the Richland County Jail.
He is scheduled to appear in court in Colleton County from January 23 to February 10.
State Judge Clifton Newman is scheduled to preside over the trial.
A battle over various types of scientific evidence, from blood spatter to cellphone location data, is expected to be a key part of the upcoming trial given the lack of eyewitnesses or video of the killings.
Murdaugh said in a complaint filed Nov. 17 that he was not at home at the time of the killings.
The Attorney General’s office has stated in court documents that the killings took place after 8:30 p.m. and before 10:06 p.m
Murdaugh’s alibi says he was at the Moselle compound from 8:30pm until just after 9pm but was planning to visit his mother, who has dementia, in nearby Varnville. When he left, he claims his wife and son were alive.
The filing states that Murdaugh made cell phone calls to his son, Buster, on his 20-minute drive to Varnville; his brother, John Marvin Murdaugh; and his sister-in-law Liz Murdaugh. The alibi also states that he spoke to Chris Wilson, a longtime friend and attorney, and CB Rowe.
Just after 9:20 p.m., Murdaugh arrived at his mother’s home, the alibi says, adding that he was visiting with his mother and a nurse, Shelly “Shelly” Smith. The alibi states that he stayed in the house until 9:45 p.m. and spoke to Wilson again on the drive back to Moseselle.
Murdaugh’s alibi states that he briefly returned to the property around 10 p.m. and discovered the bodies of Maggie and Paul about five minutes later.
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