Alex Murdaugh’s defence attorneys revealed to a packed audience of true-crime fans that they’re optimistic the disgraced legal scion will get a new trial - but say there is no money left, so they’ll do it for free.
Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin, appeared at CrimeCon in Orlando, Florida on Saturday. Creighton Waters, the prosecutor who put Murdaugh in prison, spoke in a separate panel.
The three-day event drew thousands of true-crime fans for a range of podcasters, TV personalities and victims’ families. Kerri Rawson, daughter of BTK killer Dennis Rader, spoke about her father being investigated for additional murders.
Murdaugh’s lawyers joined 20/20’s Eva Pilgrim for a “tell-all” conversation about “the Southern crime saga that captivated the world”. Alex Murdaugh, a wealthy South Carolina lawyer, was convicted in March for the brutal slayings of his wife, Maggie, and son Paul on 7 June 2021 at their family property.
The lawyers shared the unexpected challenges they faced at trial, and what they’ve learned since, including a substantial amount of information about a new suspect in the case.
Earlier this month, the pair filed a motion requesting a new trial, alleging jury tampering that involved Becky Hill, the Colleton County Clerk of Court.
Ms Hill, who has written a tell-book about the trial, has not responded to the allegations, but her co-author said that she is assembling a legal team.
Mr Griffin told the CrimeCon crowd that after Murdaugh’s six-week murder trial in Walterboro, South Carolina, they were approached by jurors who alleged that they had been urged to reach a verdict quickly.
“We have no doubt in our minds that these jurors are telling the truth,” Mr Griffin said. He added that if a judge agrees with him, then Murdaugh would be “entitled to a new trial”.
Mr Harpootlian said that in his all his years as a lawyer, he had never seen anything like it.
“It’s bizarre, what we were hearing,” he said. “When we heard, we challenged [the jurors], we pushed them… wanted to make sure there wasn’t a vendetta or something.”
Mr Harpootlian said if the South Carolina Court of Appeals grants a new trial, they would request a change of venue outside of Colleton County, to get a jury that’s not “pre-cooked”.
“And you should sequester them,” he added, about the jury.
Both attorneys, who have known Murdaugh for years, expressed their belief in his innocence.
“No, he did not have anything to do with the murders of Maggie and Paul,” Mr Harpootlian said, on stage.
He recalled a time when Murdaugh, his wife Maggie and son Paul visited his office.
“Alex and Maggie were holding hands and Alex had his arm around Paul’s shoulders, he said. “So why would he blow his son’s head off, and kill his wife? It just doesn’t add up.”
A major question has been how the two attorneys were paid for their legal services. While the Murdaugh family was tied to wealth, this dwindled following the murders and other allegations of financial crimes.
Mr Griffin revealed that the lawyers was paid “handsomely” in a separate case involving Murdaugh’s son, Paul.
In February 2019, Paul Murdaugh was allegedly drunk-driving the family’s boat and crashed it, throwing his friends overboard. One passenger, Mallory Beach, could not be located in the water, and her body washed ashore a week later.
Paul Murdaugh was charged with multiple felonies over the boat wreck and was facing 25 years in prison at the time he was murdered.
Mr Griffin said that he also received money from Alex Murdaugh’s father’s trust and his retirement savings.
However despite their desire for a new murder trial, Mr Griffin conceded that there was now no money left.
“There’s no more money for the murder case,” he said. When asked by Ms Pilgrim if the lawyers would do it for free, he said yes.
“That’s what we do,” he said. “We dont quit on our client.”
Mr Harpootlian said that Murdaugh got a raw deal.
Mr Griffin then asked the audience: “Would you turn your back on your client if you believe they got a raw deal? It’s not who we are.”
If Alex Murdaugh did not kill his wife and son, then who did? The question came up in the Q&A part of the session.
Mr Harpootlian said the legal team have theories on other possible suspects in the case. He claimed that a great deal of information has emerged since the trial that would be beneficial in a second trial.
The Q&A session became heated when one audience member told the attorneys that “nobody likes your client” so there would be no way of finding an unbiased jury.
Another man asked: “How do you sleep at night knowing you defended a murderer?” Mr Harpootlian calmly responded that he “took an oath to do my job with integrity, to reap resent that person to the best of my ability and to abide by the rules”.
“It’s what we do,” he added.