The judge presiding over the Alex Murdaugh double-murder trial has ruled the prosecution may not bring up the 2021 shooting in which Murdaugh allegedly paid a hitman to kill him, at least for now, WCIV-TV reports.
On Wednesday morning, Colleton County Judge Clifton Newman made the decision to exclude testimony about the alleged assisted suicide attempt during a motion hearing.
Three months after Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were found murdered on June 7, 2021, Alex claimed he was attacked in a drive-by shooting. But he later admitted to plotting the incident with the gunman so that his surviving son, Buster, could reap a $10 million insurance benefit.
Creighton Waters, one of the prosecutors, argued that jurors should hear about the roadside shooting because it goes to Murdaugh’s claim he was being targeted and that this claim was untruthful. The incident, Waters said, represents a “consciousness of guilt.”
“It really doesn’t matter what exactly happened on the side of the road,” Waters said, according to a video feed of the proceedings. “What we believe is relevant and admissible under these rules is to show what the defendant said about it and the fact that that was not true.”
Defense lawyer Dick Harpootlian countered that the shooting incident may be related to the alleged financial crimes against his client, but not the murder charges. If Murdaugh really wanted to distract people from the financial crimes, he would have also killed Buster, Harpootlian said, according to the television station.
Further, Harpootlian said Murdaugh created the story about the attack after waking up.
“He didn’t intend to still be alive,” Harpootlian told the court, according to the Post and Courier.
Newman ultimately ruled in favor of the defense that the roadside shooting is not relevant to the murders.
“I believe to allow this evidence is a bridge too far,” Newman said, according to the video feed. “Going down this path of allowing essentially any and all evidence in . . . it does not meet the logical relevancy test.”
However, Newman added that it’s possible the incident could be introduced later in the trial if circumstances change, according to WCIV-TV.
The state is expected to rest its case on Thursday.
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[Feature Photo: Former Hampton attorney Alex Murdaugh walks in the Colleton County Courthouse during the first day of jury selection in Walterboro, S.C. Monday, Jan. 23, 2023. (Grace Beahm Alford/The Post And Courier via AP, Pool)]