As the double-murder trial of prominent South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh continues to draw the true-crime spotlight, his trial attorney Dick Harpootlian seemingly can’t help but pull some of the attention his own way. So far, his hijinks have included asking a journalist if she was the “alter sexual ego” of her blog’s founder and feigning surprise over a seven-figure bond — “It’s not often a Black judge sets a bond like that.” Adding to that list was his apparent joke on Tuesday afternoon involving a rifle.
Murdaugh is accused of fatally shooting his wife and son at their home in 2021, following a string of alleged financial crimes and suspicious deaths surrounding the prominent family. Harpootlian was explaining that his client could not have killed his wife with an AR-15-style rifle because, at six-foot-four, Murdaugh would have had to crouch in an “unrealistic shooting position” for the trajectory to line up with her gunshot wounds. With the gun in his hands, Harpootlian briefly pointed it at prosecutors and said, “tempting.” The wisecrack led Alan Wilson, the South Carolina attorney general seated at the prosecutor’s table, to smile.
A Democratic state senator who once proposed that death-row prisoners in South Carolina have the option of a firing squad, Harpootlian has reportedly pulled a gun out in unusual circumstances in this case more than once. When reporter Vicky Ward was in his office in 2021, she asked him about Murdaugh’s botched plan to hire a cousin to kill him after the deaths of his wife and son: How could the gunman have missed if they were just feet away from each other? Ward claims that Harpootlian pulled a handgun from his desk drawer as if to say, “If it’s so easy, you try.”
As Harpootlian makes his idiosyncratic and vaguely threatening points, he is conducting a more traditional defense. Prosecutors rested their case last week after calling more than 60 witnesses, and the defense called forth Murdaugh’s surviving son, Buster, to describe his father’s sadness in the hours after the death of his wife and younger son. “He was heartbroken,” Buster Murdaugh said. “I walked in the door and saw him, gave him a hug.”