A judge has ruled that prosecutors can call witnesses to testify how Alex Murdaugh allegedly stole money as part of the double murder trial for the disbarred South Carolina attorney as long as they can show it is convincing evidence and linked to the killings.
Judge Clifton Newman said Thursday he will briefly hear from the witnesses outside the presence of the jury to decide whether they can testify in the case.
He said he believes the evidence is "so much a part of the setting of the case and its environment that its proof is appropriate in order to complete the story of the crime by proving its immediate context."
Prosecutors said the evidence is key to their case. They said Murdaugh killed his wife and son at their Colleton County home on June 7, 2021, because a paralegal at the family law firm discovered earlier that day a check on Murdaugh's desk that indicated he was stealing money.
Murdaugh planned the killings to gain sympathy and buy time so he could find a way to cover up the missing money as he had numerous times before in the past decade or so, prosecutors said.
Murdaugh's lawyers said prosecutors are trying to smear Murdaugh with bad behavior not related to the killings to bolster their weak case. They have called it absurd and ridiculous to think that Murdaugh would believe having his family brutally killed would do anything but bring scrutiny into every nook and cranny of his life.
And it did.
Along with the two murder charges, Murdaugh faces about 100 more counts with most of the charges coming before his murder indictment in July 2022.
The accusations range from money laundering, to stealing millions from clients and the family law firm, tax evasion and trying to get a man to fatally shoot him so his surviving son could collect a $10 million life insurance policy. State agents charged Murdaugh with tax evasion, saying he made nearly $14 million as a lawyer over nine years, but also stole nearly $7 million from his law firm at the same time.
Murdaugh, 54, is standing trial in the shootings of his 52-year-old wife, Maggie, and 22-year-old son Paul. He faces 30 years to life in prison if convicted of murder.
The sixth day of testimony in his trial is expected to continue after Newman's ruling and any hearings to decide if witnesses can testify before the jury
Since the killings, Murdaugh's life has seen a stunningly fast downfall. His family dominated the legal system in tiny Hampton County for generations, both as prosecutors and private attorneys known for getting life-changing settlements for accidents and negligence cases.