Murdaugh's Drug Habit Cost $50K—Per Week

Admission triggers a blow to South Carolina lawyer's murder defense
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 16, 2023 8:34 AM CST
Murdaugh's Drug Habit Cost $50K —Per Week
Alex Murdaugh, left, speaks with defense attorney Dick Harpootlian during his trial for murder at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, SC, on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023.   (Joshua Boucher/The State via AP, Pool)

The judge in Alex Murdaugh's murder trial made a dramatic reversal Wednesday after defense attorneys claimed authorities had failed to investigate lines of evidence that could point to other possible killers in the June 2021 murders of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh. During cross-examination, defense attorney Jim Griffin asked SLED Special Agent David Owen, the lead investigator, if he knew Alex Murdaugh was buying an incredible $50,000 a week in drugs from his dealer, distant cousin, and co-defendant Curtis Eddie Smith, who owed money to a gang from which he received the drugs, per Greenville News. Griffin also questioned why members of the gang weren't investigated as murder suspects.

Earlier Wednesday, Judge Clifton Newman had sided with the defense in ruling that evidence related to a September 2021 alleged assisted suicide plot between Murdaugh and Smith was inadmissible as it was related to the South Carolina lawyer's alleged financial crimes and not the murders. After Griffin's line of questioning, however, Newman reversed course, saying the defense had "opened that door as to the relationship between Mr. Murdaugh and Mr. Smith." Prosecutors claim Murdaugh recruited Smith to fatally shoot him three months after the murders so his surviving son could collect a $10 million life insurance payout, showing a pattern of lying and violence. They also claim the botched plot was meant to shift blame for the murders away from Murdaugh.

Though Smith is listed as a witness for the state, the change makes it unlikely that he will take the stand, per the Independent, which notes the defense is eager to cross-examine him after previously claiming he failed a lie detector test that referenced the murders. Prosecutors said Wednesday that they hope to stick to their original plan of resting their case by Thursday afternoon or Friday morning. Murdaugh may take the stand in his defense, however, in what is seen as a last resort tactic. CNN reports the decision will be made late in the trial, "perhaps at the last second." (Read more Alex Murdaugh stories.)

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