A South Carolina judge on Wednesday denied Alex Murdaugh, the embattled South Carolina lawyer facing a wild array of criminal charges, bond a second time after reviewing his court-mandated psychiatric evaluation.
Murdaugh, 53, was denied bail last month on charges stemming from an alleged scheme to steal millions from the family of his former housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield. At the time, South Carolina Judge Clifton Newman said he was worried Murdaugh’s admitted opioid addition and several other legal woes made him a danger to the community.
Newman, however, concluded at the Oct. 19 hearing he would reconsider the possibility the legal scion—who is already facing charges for orchestrating his own murder for an insurance payout—could be released on bail to go back to his drug rehab center in Florida after undergoing psychiatric evaluation.
“After considering the arguments of counsel, the evaluation submitted, pending charges and other investigations, and the apparent character and mental condition of the defendant, the Court finds that the Defendant is a danger both to himself and the community,” South Carolina Judge Clifton Newman concluded in a new two-page order that did not detail the results of the evaluation.
Hours after the order went public on Wednesday, Murdaugh lawyers petitioned the South Carolina Supreme Court to overturn the decision to keep their client behind bars. In a petition first reported by The State, Jim Griffin and Dick Harpootlian argued the government cannot keep someone in jail indefinitely barring exceptional circumstances.
“The South Carolina Constitution guarantees every person the right to be released on bail, pending trial, except persons charged with capital offenses, offenses punishable by life imprisonment, or violent offenses as defined by the General Assembly,” the petition, asking for a speedy review the case, said.
While the petition to get Murdaugh out of jail also did not appear to provide a copy of the sealed evaluation, it did disclose new details about the psychiatrist who examined him in jail—and what Dr. Donna Maddox allegedly concluded.
“Dr. Maddox did not find that [Murdaugh] is a danger to himself or to the community,” the petition said, adding that the doctor did diagnose Murdaugh with “severe Opioid disorder.”
The latest legal blow means Murdaugh must now remain at Richland County Detention Center while awaiting trial, marking the latest twist in the made-for-TV saga about the man whose family has been tantamount to the law in the South Carolina Lowcountry for decades.
“Judge Newman continues to exercise the correct judicial temperament in connection with the nature of the pending charges and Alex Murdaugh’s clear and present danger to the community and to himself," Eric Bland, an attorney representing the Satterfield family, said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “This case and the crimes are unique. Ordinary bond rules are not applicable in our view.”
Bland, however, also noted that he has not seen Murdaugh’s psychiatric evaluation.
The charges that have led to Murdaugh’s indefinite incarceration allege that after Satterfield “fell and hit her head” on Murdaugh property in 2018—and later died from a stroke and cardiac arrest—the disgraced lawyer coordinated with the housekeeper’s family “to sue himself in order to seek an insurance settlement.”
Satterfield’s two sons, however, insist they have not received a dime of the $4.3 million settlement, which prosecutors allege Murdaugh negotiated in secret, ultimately pocketing the cash for his “own use.”
The shocking charges on Oct. 13 also came less than a month after Murdaugh and his alleged former drug dealer were charged in a doomed plot to kill himself so his surviving son, Buster, could collect a $10 million insurance payout of his own. Murdaugh was granted bond for those charges after his lawyers argued he needed to remain in rehab for his drug addiction that was exacerbated after Murdaugh’s wife, Maggie, and son, Paul, were found murdered outside their Hampton County estate. At the time, Paul was facing charges for a 2019 boat crash that killed a teenage girl.
Murdaugh also has been implicated in a series of lawsuits, ranging from allegations that he conspired to influence the 2019 boat investigation to the claims that he swindled millions from his former law firm.