WALTERBORO, S.C. — Jury selection was finalized and opening statements were given Wednesday, the third day of the double murder trial for Alex Murdaugh, the disgraced former South Carolina attorney accused of killing his wife and son in what prosecutors say was an attempt to avoid discovery of multi-million dollar financial crimes, ABC affiliate in Charleston WCIV reported.
Alex Murdaugh stands trial accused of killing his wife, Maggie Murdaugh, 52, and son, Paul Murdaugh, 22, at the family’s Colleton County property in June of 2021.
He’s charged with two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The jury was let go around 5 p.m. and will resume trial proceeding Thursday at 9:30 a.m. Thursday is expected to begin with a 45 minute recording of full body camera video from law enforcement responding to the murder scene.
Opening statements were given Wednesday afternoon.
Before a lunch break and after the jury left the room, Judge Clifton Newman ordered crime scene and autopsy photos gruesome or graphic in nature to remain sealed and not be disseminated to the public.
During this discussion, Murdaugh was seen crying while still sitting with his legal team.
Just before court resumed, Murdaugh’s surviving son Buster and his brother John Marvin Murdaugh were seen walking into the courthouse. Alex Murdaugh’s sister Lynn Murdaugh was also present.
Prosecutor Creighton Waters began the opening statements.
He began by claiming Alex shot Paul in their dog kennel/feed room about 8:50 p.m., first with buckshot in the chest and shoulder, then a second bird shot to the head. He said evidence will show the second shot did catastrophic damage.
Then, Waters claims Alex picked up an AR-15 style rifle chambered in .300 Blackout and shot his wife Maggie twice in the lower body, then twice in the head killing her.
He said evidence shows neither Maggie nor Paul had defensive wounds and were shot at close range. He believes this means they didn’t see the attack coming.
He went on to say the weapon that killed them was a family weapon. (Note- the actual murder weapon has not been located).
Waters said Alex claims he wasn’t at the family’s dog kennels at the time of the murders, but Waters claims cellphone data will show he was. He said this will be a key piece of forensic evidence in the case- not just Alex’s cellphone, but Paul and Maggie’s too.
He said all three were “prolific” cellphone users and witnesses will enlighten the jury on the nature of the calls and patterns of calls and texts on the day of the murders.
He said evidence will also show there was definitely aforethought on Alex’s part and that malice existed for a while. This “malice aforethought” is a large part of the burden of proof in murder cases.
Waters told the jury they will see videos of Murdaugh on the night of the murders. He told them to watch Murdaugh closely in those videos, paying attention to his facial expressions and words. He also says to pay attention to the 911 calls too.
One of those videos comes before the mother and son were killed. Waters said in a video taken on Paul’s phone, you can hear Alex and Maggie’s voices in the background- despite Alex saying he was never at the kennel that night. The video, according to Waters, was something Paul recorded for a friend whose dog who staying in the kennel and possibly had a medical issue.
It was 3 minutes later that Paul’s phone goes “silent forever,” Waters claimed.
According to Waters, the timeline of that time includes:
- 8:15 p.m. Maggie arrives at the Moselle house. They eat dinner together, which is evident from similar foods found in their stomach content during the autopsy.
- 8:30 p.m. cellphone data shows Paul move to the kennels
- 8:44 p.m. video taken on Paul’s phone, with Alex’s voice reportedly heard in the background
- 8:49 p.m. Paul’s phone locks for the final time. He never answered his friend’s last text.
- 8:30-9 p.m. Alex’s phone is inactive, then a flurry of activity begins. Waters noted how Alex texted and called Maggie’s phone, despite the kennels being 1.3 miles away and visible from the house. He said the main driveway to the house went by the kennels, but Alex drove out a different driveway when saying he went to his mother’s house.
In conclusion, Waters said the trial will be a long and complicated case, but once puzzle pieces start fitting together, the “evident and inescapable conclusion” will be reached that Alex Murdaugh committed these crimes.
“(Alex) was the storm, the storm was coming for them, just like the storms are coming here (Walterboro) right now, and the storm arrived on June 7, 2021. They died as a result,” Water said.
Lead defender Dick Harpootlian gave the defense’s opening statement
Harpootlian started by saying it’s an honor to represent Alex Murdaugh. He asked Alex to stand up, introducing him as a loving father and husband.
“You’re not going to hear a single witness say that Maggie and Alex’s relationship was anything but loving,” he said.
The lawyer told the jury what they heard from Waters wasn’t “facts” but instead just theories and conjecture.
Harpootlian referred to Paul’s cellphone video too. He said in a video about an hour before the shooting, you can hear Paul and Alex laughing together.
He vividly described how Paul was murdered, saying his head literally exploded and all that was left was his face.
As Harpootlian describes the scene, Murdaugh can be seen hunched over, and sobbing.
As for Maggie, Harpootlian claims she didn’t have any defensive wounds because she was running away when struck. Harpootlian said it’s implausible that Alex used two weapons to shoot and kill them, and it’s more likely the crime was done by two people.
More so, Harpootlian argued a shooter standing at close range while committing the murders would have been “covered head to toe in blood,” but that is not how Alex was found by authorities.
Harpootlian said Alex would have had to go back to the house to change clothes. He said police did not search the house that night, despite Alex apparently giving them permission and a search warrant being obtained.
The clothes Alex was found in that night were tested and Harpootlian said no blood spatter was found.
He said the gunshot residue was negligible and could be explained away by transfer from simply touching a weapon- which he said Alex did the night of the murders since he went to grab a shotgun thinking killer could be on property.
In conclusion, Harpootlian said simply: “He didn’t do it.”
VIDEO: Trial set to begin Monday for Alex Murdaugh who is accused of killing wife, son
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