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Convicted Alex Murdaugh co-conspirator tries to use murderer’s statements during trial to reverse conviction

Alex Murdaugh (L) and Russell Laffitte (R)

Alex Murdaugh, left, and Russell Laffitte, right, appear in mugshots. (South Carolina Department of Corrections; Kershaw County Detention Center)

A federal judge took stock of the word of convicted double murderer Alex Murdaugh in an opinion released this week – and found it lacking.

In late November 2022, Russell Laffitte, the former CEO of Palmetto State Bank, was convicted by a jury on six separate financial crimes, including bank fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and misapplication of bank funds. Jurors found that $680,000 of those funds were paid out directly to Murdaugh’s former law firm and that $1.25 million was unlawfully lent to Murdaugh himself.

In early March, Laffitte filed his second motion for a new trial.

“Richard Alexander Murdaugh recently stood trial in Colleton County, South Carolina, for murder and related crimes,” the motion says. “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 did not have any knowledge of Mr. Murdaugh’s criminal activity.”

The motion highlights the specific phraseology employed by Murdaugh during his controversial decision to waive his Fifth Amendment rights and testify that he did commit myriad financial crimes:

Russell Laffitte never conspired with me to do anything, whatever was done was done by me…This is stuff that I did. I did these things wrong. Russell Laffitte didn’t do anything…You keep talking about stuff I did with Russell Laffitte, but what I want to let you know is that I did this and I am the one that took people’s money that I shouldn’t have taken and that Russell Laffitte was not involved in helping me do that knowingly…If he did it, he did it without knowing it.

More Law&Crime coverage: ‘There’s no way that he’ll be able to sleep peacefully’: Judge in Alex Murdaugh case speaks publicly about double murder trial for first time

The new motion argued that Murdaugh’s incriminating in-court statements constitute “newly discovered evidence” since “it has been discovered since the end of Mr. Laffitte’s trial.”

Earlier in March, Alex Murdaugh was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences by Judge Clifton Newman for the murder of his wife and son. He is appealing his conviction.

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.

U.S. District Judge Richard Mark Gergel was not persuaded.

“Murdaugh is manifestly not a credible witness. Evidence offered during the Defendant’s trial established without question that Murdaugh is a serial liar and fraudster who stole from his clients and law partners,” the judge wrote in the Wednesday order denying the request for a new trial. “He now stands convicted of the double homicide of his wife and son. It is difficult to imagine a less credible witness under these circumstances.”

Additionally, the court said that “the overwhelming majority view 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 presently offered testimony is newly available but not newly discovered,” Gergel determined.

Read the opinion and order in full below:

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