A federal judge took stock of convicted double-murderer Alex Murdaugh’s words in a statement released this week — and found them flawed.
In late November 2022, Russell Laffitte, the former CEO of Palmetto State Bank, was convicted by a jury of six separate financial crimes, including bank fraud, conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud, and misappropriation of bank funds. Jurors found that $680,000 of those funds were paid directly to Murdaugh’s former law firm and that $1.25 million was illegally loaned to Murdaugh himself.
In early March, Laffitte filed his second motion for a new trial.
“Richard Alexander Murdaugh was recently tried in Colleton County, South Carolina, for murder and related crimes,” the motion said. “On February 23, 2023, Mr. Murdaugh explicitly stated, for the first time in sworn testimony, that he did not participate in a conspiracy with Mr. Laffitte because Mr. Laffitte did not participate in the financial crimes. Mr. Murdaugh took full responsibility for his actions and testified that Mr. Laffitte did nothing wrong and had no knowledge of Mr. Murdaugh’s criminal activity.”
The motion highlights the specific phraseology Murdaugh used during his controversial decision to waive his Fifth Amendment rights and testify that he committed countless financial crimes:
Russell Laffitte never conspired with me to do anything, whatever was done was done by me… These are things I did. I did these things wrong. Russell Laffitte didn’t do anything…You keep talking about things I did with Russell Laffitte, but what I’m going to tell you is that I did this and I’m the one who took people’s money that I should not have taken, and that Russell Laffitte was not involved in helping me do it knowingly…If he did it, he did it without knowing it.
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The new motion argued that Murdaugh’s incriminating statements in court constitute “newly discovered evidence” since “it has been discovered since the conclusion of Mr. Laffitte’s trial.”
Earlier in March, Alex Murdaugh was given two consecutive life sentences by Judge Clifton Newman for the murder of his wife and son. He is appealing his sentence.
The filing also argues that if Murdaugh’s statements were introduced at a new trial, they would “likely produce an acquittal” because they speak to the crimes Laffitte was charged with.
US District Judge Richard Mark Gergel was not persuaded.
“Murdaugh is clearly not a credible witness. Evidence offered at defendant’s trial established beyond doubt that Murdaugh is a serial liar and fraud who stole from his clients and law partners,” the judge wrote in Wednesday’s ruling denying the request for a new trial. “He is now convicted of the double murder of his wife and son. It is hard to imagine a less credible witness under these circumstances.”
In addition, the court said that “the overwhelming majority holds that post-trial evidence of a witness who refused to testify at the defendant’s trial is not “newly discovered”” under federal rules.
“Murdaugh’s current testimony is newly available, but not newly discovered,” Gergel stated.
Read the statement and order in full below:
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