Attorneys deliver fiery opening statements in Murdaugh murder trial
COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - Fiery opening statements in the double murder trial of disgraced Lowcountry attorney Alex Murdaugh painted two vastly different pictures of the night of June 7, 2021, when Murdaugh’s son Paul and wife Maggie were shot and killed.
Opening statements featured an avalanche of new information not previously known or presented, as state prosecutors highlighted evidence they plan to put before the jury in this case.
The prosecution alleges they have cell phone data and gunshot residue to prove Murdaugh was the killer.
The defense contends there is no proof and no witnesses.
The state’s lead prosecutor Creighton Waters used the imagery of the stormy weather in Walterboro Wednesday to drive home his main argument.
He referenced a “gathering storm” of evidence, both physical and circumstantial, that he and his team are prepared to present during the trial. This will point directly to Alex Murdaugh as the person who killed Maggie and Paul, and no one else, Waters said.
For 18 months the state was relatively silent about the evidence gathered in this high-profile murder trial. But in 30 minutes time, in a compelling opening statement from Waters, he described the timeline of the shootings.
Waters said the evidence will show that Alex first shot Paul with a shotgun, and then shot Maggie with an AR-style rifle moments later.
“At 8:50 P.M., the defendant over there, Alex Murdaugh, took a 12 gauge shotgun and shot [Paul] in the shoulder, in the chest and the shoulder with a buckshot and the evidence is going to show it was a million to one shot he could have survived that, and after that, another shot went up under his head that did catastrophic damage,” he said.
Waters described how Alex Murdaugh purchased bought 3 separate .300 Blackout rifles over the years and said evidence will show the casings found at the crime scene match one of those guns.
The murder weapons have not been recovered. Waters also described how the exact brand and type of ammunition used in the shootings were found in boxes throughout the Moselle property.
Waters further described an incident in the summer of 2021 shortly after Murdaugh’s father Randolph Murdaugh died, and shortly after the shootings, when Murdaugh visited his mother who has Alzheimer’s disease, carrying something with a blue tarp. Waters said law enforcement found a “wadded up” raincoat coated with gunshot residue.
He further claimed that evidence will show that gunshot residue was found on the seatbelt of Alex’s vehicle.
Cell phone data, the state argues, definitively puts Murdaugh at the scene at the time of the shootings of his wife and son. Waters described how both Paul and Maggie’s cell phones went silent and lock at 8:49 P.M., never to be opened again.
The state said that the evidence will catch Murdaugh in a lie.” The evidence is going to show that the defendant Alex Murdaugh over there told anyone who would listen that he was never at those kennels,” he said. “But the evidence is also going to show, from these things that every one of us, most of us carry around in our pocket, that he was there.”
Murdaugh’s defense attorney Dick Harpootlian called it an “honor” to defend Murdaugh.
He contradicted the state’s arguments at every turn.
“Alex was the loving of Paul and the loving husband of Maggie,” Harpootlian said. “You’re not going to hear a single witness say that their relationship, Maggie and Alex’s relationship, was anything other than loving.”
Harpootlian also pointed to a cell phone video to make his case, contrasting it with a brutal description of the slaying of Paul. ”Horrendous, horrible, butchering,” he said. “So to find Alex Murdaugh guilty of murdering his son you’re going to have to accept that within an hour of having a extraordinarily bonding, you can see it in the Snapchat, that he executes him in a brutal fashion.”In the end, Harpootlian challenged the jury directly to keep their solemn oath, they took moments prior.”He didn’t do it,” he said. “He is innocent. He would require a verdict of not guilty from you. That’s the law. That’s your oath.”Court resumes Thursday at 9:30 A.M., as testimony from one of the first law enforcement agents on the scene at Moselle is expected to testify.
Opening statements in the Alex Murdaugh murder trial are scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. in the Colleton County Courthouse. Defense attorney Dick Harpootlian and lead prosecutor Creighton Waters were scheduled to speak.
Buster Murdaugh was spotted arriving at the courthouse shortly before opening remarks began. It is the first time he’s been seen at the legal proceedings for his father Alex.
Waters said to the jury, “Remember the emphasis is on the reasonable.” He asked the jury to consider what Murdaugh says during the trial, hear the evidence and what his expression conveys, “Does this seem right?”
During the opening statement, Waters told the jury it will hear evidence linking the weapon and shells found at the scene to Murdaugh, “Family weapon, same ammunition.”
He said key pieces of evidence in the case include forensic ballistic evidence and cell phone location records.
Harpootlian told the jury that it isn’t believable for Murdaugh to have had dinner and spent time with family only an hour before they were killed. He said of the 911 tape, “It is a man hysterical, in grief.”
Harpootlian explained that SLED testing of Murdaugh’s clothing found no blood on it on the night of the murder.
Judge Clifton Newman said the court will resume tomorrow at 9:30 a.m.
JUST NOW: Buster Murdaugh arrives at court for opening statements in the murder trial of his father, Alex. This is the first time we have seen him at these proceedings. @wis10 pic.twitter.com/zyPPheCYNU— Greg Adaline (@GregWISTV) January 25, 2023
GRAPHIC CONTENT WARNING: This live stream contains discussions from a murder trial. It may include imagery and words that are disturbing.
Jury selection finished on day three of the Alex Murdaugh murder trial. The former Lowcountry attorney faces a possible life sentence in the 2021 murders of his wife and son.
Court resumed at 11 a.m. in the Colleton County Courthouse for the third day of the trial. The first thing on the agenda was the remainder of the jury selection. Murdaugh arrived in a law enforcement van and was silent to questions. At around 1:30 p.m., the jury was finalized. The prosecution and the defense said they’d be prepared to deliver opening statements by 3 p.m. Wednesday. WIS will live stream the statements on air and on our digital platforms.
Opening statements to start in the Alex Murdaugh trial at 3 PM.— Nick Neville (@NickNeville_) January 25, 2023
This jury of the disbarred Lowcountry attorney’s peers will be asked to render a verdict as to whether or not he killed his wife and son in June of 2021. @wis10
RIGHT NOW: Alex #Murdaugh arrives at Colleton County Courthouse for Day 3 of his murder trial. Opening arguments expected later today. @wis10 @NickNeville_ pic.twitter.com/yRIVtSwJAI— Greg Adaline (@GregWISTV) January 25, 2023
Analysts have told WIS that jury selection is key to the trial. Both sides are looking to find jurors sympathetic to their case.
Monday started with 900 potential jurors. By Wednesday the field had narrowed to around 120 before court resumed. In the final selection, 12 jurors and six alternates will sit on the panel to decide on the case.
After the jury is seated a recess is expected, followed by opening statements. The statements could come as early as Wednesday afternoon.
All eyes will be on the state prosecutor, Creighton Waters. His job in the case is to make a compelling argument. Waters must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Murdaugh and no else committed the June 7, 2021 murders.
- LIVE BLOG: Day 1 of jury selection wraps in the Alex Murdaugh murder trial
- Judge in Murdaugh trial decides key motions as jury selection continues
- LIVE BLOG: Day 3: Prosecutors, defense to begin finalizing Murdaugh jury
Legal analyst Eric Bland spoke with WIS,
”...a lot of research has been done which shows that about 80 percent of jurors make up their minds through opening statements, and the first two witnesses…so they’re going to be very very important.”
Bland has also been subpoenaed to testify during the case.
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