South Carolina State Sen. Dick Harpootlian, a longtime ally of President Joe Biden who has often courted controversy in the past, and who recently assumed a level of national stature for representing convicted double murderer Alex Murdaugh, told his colleagues that people are sending him messages telling him they hope he dies.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Richland County Democrat took to the floor of the state Senate and mused about his absence during the nationally watched murder trial – and the aftermath.
“I really got up here to say this,” Harpootlian began. “I got a number of texts, emails, especially from the senator from Lexington, wanting to know how I was. She always wants to know am I eating well? Am I sleeping well? And I really appreciate those of you who reached out to me in this maelstrom of a trial. It is hard to focus on anything except the trial. We stayed in Walterboro for six weeks.”
The former chair of the Democratic Party of South Carolina went on to address his work as an attorney over the years.
“I’ve been doing this for almost half a century,” he said. “It’s still – ‘fun’ is the wrong word, but it’s still as enjoyable today for me as it was almost 50 years ago when I began this process of trying cases. And I’ve tried hundreds and hundreds of them: big cases, little cases. I’ve won cases, I’ve lost cases, but that process, if it operates correctly, can be so satisfying – to the lawyers. Now the client: if they lose, they’re not satisfied. If they win, typically, they feel like they should have won anyway.”
Harpootlian went on to dismiss any concerns that the judge overseeing the Murdaugh trial was in any way out to get his client.
“He ruled,” the attorney and state senator said. “We objected. It’s in the record. The court, supreme court, court of appeals have a chance to look at it and maybe even the federal court, but that’s not based on bias. He just had a view of the law different than I had.”
Then, Harpootlian addressed comments he had received from people online – though he said most of them were positive.
“A lot of were people who were watching this in Germany or England or the Netherlands,” he said. “I don’t know. They don’t have anything else to do in those countries. But a bunch of people here also gave me suggestions on a daily basis what we should do or how we screwed up.”
All of that, Harpootlian suggested, was fine. It was another style of message that he didn’t particularly care for.
“The folks who sent me: ‘you are a rotten piece of scum’ and ‘I hope you die of’ – let me clean this up a little bit – ‘rectal cancer,’ they have a misapprehension of the system,” he said. “They have a misapprehension of our justice system – while they are very familiar with the Second Amendment, they apparently haven’t read the Fourth, the Fifth, the Sixth, the Eighth Amendments that guarantee us the freedom, the freedom – that guarantee our freedoms of ourselves and our property.”
Harpootlian went on to note that both John Adams and Abraham Lincoln represented people accused of murder.
“He said that everybody deserves the presumption of innocence and the benefit of counsel,” he said, referring to the second president of the United States.
“Go read a book,” he added. “You know, Abraham Lincoln represented 20 murder defendants.”
Harpootlian also noted that he took an oath as an attorney, taking it out to read the statement of principles to his colleagues.
“Oaths matter,” he said. “Your word matters.”
Last week, Harpootlian’s highest-profile client of his career was quickly convicted by jurors in Colleton County on two counts of murder and associated weapons charges over the June 2021 deaths of his wife, Maggie Murdaugh, and youngest son, Paul Murdaugh.
The defense team has vowed to appeal.
The attorney continued to gripe about online commenters criticizing him for who he represented, bemoaning the lack of knowledge about how the legal system works.
“Not all of them wished rectal cancer on me, but most were fairly critical,” he said.
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