Day 24: Murdaugh on the stand for a second day, questioned about the night of the murders

Defense questioned Alex Murdaugh on redirect after prosecution wrapped
Published: Feb. 24, 2023 at 8:43 AM EST

WALTERBORO, S.C. (WIS) - Former Lowcountry attorney Alex Murdaugh returned Friday to testify for the second day of the prosecution’s cross-examination.

Murdaugh said he decided to lie to SLED investigators because of drug-induced paranoia, his mistrust of the investigative agency, and advice he received to not speak to anyone without a lawyer.

Prosecutors tighten timeline before the murders

On Day 23, Murdaugh spent the majority of his testimony discussing how he found the bodies of his wife Maggie, and son Paul.

Court resumed at 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 24. You can watch below or stream on our YouTube channel.

Previous coverage:

The question of whether Alex Murdaugh will testify in the double murder case against him looms large over the closely-watched trial.

Murdaugh’s defense team is still mulling over that prospect as it continues presenting its case.

The disgraced Lowcountry attorney is accused of brutally murdering his wife Maggie and son Paul on the family’s hunting property on June 7, 2021.

The defense has already called Murdaugh’s surviving son Buster to the stand, but calling Alex opens him up to questioning from the state.

As court wrapped for the day Wednesday, WIS asked Murdaugh defense attorney Dick Harpootlian whether his client will take the stand.

Harpootlian said he knows the answer, but would not comment further.

A final decision is expected to come as soon as Thursday morning.

Wednesday morning, without the jury present, defense attorney Jim Griffin asked presiding Judge Clifton Newman to limit the scope of the cross-examination should Murdaugh testify.

Griffin said he is concerned about potential questions regarding Murdaugh’s dozens of alleged financial crimes, which Newman has previously ruled to admit as evidence in the murder trial.

He specifically asked whether Murdaugh would be allowed to take the Fifth Amendment in these matters.

Lead prosecutor Creighton Waters, in response, argued that if the defendant were to testify, the cross-examination would be “wide open.”

Newman said he would not issue such an order.

“For the court to issue some blanket order limiting the scope of cross-examination, that’s unheard of to me,” he said.

Legal analyst and attorney Joe McCulloch represents the Cook family in their lawsuit against Murdaugh in the 2019 boat crash that killed Mallory Beach.

He told WIS Wednesday that he believes Murdaugh wants to testify, but there are risks involved for the defense, as Murdaugh’s testimony could unravel any of the defense’s hopes for a mistrial.

However, McCulloch also said Murdaugh may also prove to be the only person who can explain to the jury why he was at the kennels at 8:44 P.M. on the night of the murders, and why he told so many people he was never down there after dinner on June 7.

Murdaugh’s former law partner Mark Ball also took the stand Wednesday as the defense’s fifth witness, offering compelling testimony for both sides.

Ball showed up to Moselle at about 10:50 P.M. the night of the murders.

He said the crime scene was sloppy, not secure, and no one was blocking traffic in and out of the property.

“Did that entrance get blocked off?” Griffin asked.

“No,” Ball said.

“What happened?” Griffin asked.

“People just kept piling in, I mean it just, I mean it was a, just more and more people kept showing up,” Ball said.

Ball noticed water around Paul’s body from the rain that night, which bothered him.

“It’s a crime scene, you don’t want just water dripping all over the place, but more importantly, I thought it was pretty disrespectful,” he said. “I mean Paul was a good young man and quite frankly it just pissed me off.”

Ball also said it didn’t appear the main house had been searched or secured. He felt there was lots of uncollected evidence, which he said made him angry.

He said Murdaugh kept saying, “look at what they did,” referring to the crime scene that night.

The defense then played a clip for Ball of Murdaugh’s interview with SLED on June 10, 2021, and Ball said it sounded like Murdaugh said, “They did him so bad,” in reference to Paul.

While being questioned by Griffin about Murdaugh’s relationship with his family, Ball, who has known the defendant for more than 30 years, had a stunning response.

“The person I thought I knew loved his family, or appeared to love his family, very much,” he said. “He’d take their calls, he’d do all of those things. After September the 3rd, I’m not sure I know that person.”

Ball is referencing September 3, 2021, when Murdaugh was fired from his law firm for stealing.

As much as Ball helped the defense by showing an incomplete, or sloppy investigation, he ended up being an effective witness for the prosecution as well.

On cross-examination, Ball offered damaging testimony to Murdaugh’s character in a way few prosecution witnesses have been able to do thus far.

He testified that Murdaugh lied to him repeatedly, including about stealing millions from clients, and about where he was minutes before the murders.

Ball became the 9th witness to identify Murdaugh’s voice in a video taken by Paul at the kennels minutes before prosecutors say the murders happened.

“He denied to you three times that he ever went to those kennels, did he not?” Waters asked Ball.

“He did,” Ball replied.

“His buddy, his friend and his law partner of 34 years told you three times ‘I was never there?’” Waters said.

“That’s correct,” Ball said.

“And you know now that’s a lie?” Waters asked.

“When I saw the video a month or so ago,” Ball said.

Ball also said Murdaugh did not appear to be concerned about Buster’s safety the night of the killings, despite circumstances that appeared to indicate the family was potentially being targeted.

According to Ball, when speaking about Buster that night, Murdaugh told him, “He’ll be fine.”

Ball also said he felt betrayed when he learned Murdaugh stolen from the law firm, and he never believed Murdaugh’s roadside shooting story a few months later.

Upon hearing that Alex Murdaugh had been shot on the side of the road September 4, 2021, in what turned out to be a hoax, Ball testified he said, “Don’t tell me that jackass killed himself.”

Ball said his friend and colleague was good at hiding who he really was, and most everything he thought he knew about the defendant turned out to be a lie.

Wednesday afternoon, Kenneth Zercie, an expert witness for the defense, testified that SLED did not do an adequate job examining the crime scene.

He testified that “much more could’ve been done.”

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