Witness testimony concludes in Murdaugh murder trial as jurors prepare to visit crime scene
WALTERBORO, S.C. – (WIS) Witness testimony concluded Tuesday in the Alex Murdaugh double murder trial after jurors heard from several reply witnesses.
In total, more than 75 witnesses testified.
The defense rested its case Monday afternoon, more than a month into the trial, but the state had the opportunity to call additional witnesses to clarify or dispute elements of the defense’s case.
As part of its rebuttal, the state called six rebuttal witnesses who sought to once again highlight Murdaugh’s dishonesty, and dispute the defense’s key theories about the killings.
Dr. Ken Kinsey, a crime scene expert, refuted the assertion that Maggie was gunned down by a 5′2″ shooter.
Kinsey was the state’s last witness, and he was questioned by South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson.
This is the first time in this trial that Alan Wilson questioned a witness, though he has sat with his prosecutors each day for the past few weeks during the proceedings.
“Can you exclude a 6′4″ defendant like Alex Murdaugh, or anyone for that matter at that height, from shooting that shotgun at that angle?” Wilson asked.
“Absolutely not,” Kinsey said.
Wilson, along with Kinsey, then re-enacted the defense’s theory of how Paul was shot execution-style in the back of the head.
They demonstrated how the angles offered by the defense witnesses are not reasonable, realistic or viable, based on the evidence.
“I think the theory’s preposterous in my opinion,” he said.
The state used this to push back against one of the defense’s assertions: that there were two shooters.
“Can you exclude two shooters?” Wilson asked.
“I cannot include or exclude two shooters,” Kinsey said.
“Can the defense include, to the exclusion of all other possibilities, two shooters?” Wilson asked.
“Absolutely not,” Kinsey said.
Kinsey confirmed the shells next to Maggie came from a Murdaugh family weapon, and he testified in a plain-spoken and folksy manner, in a way that made him relatable for the jury.
The state’s goal Tuesday was to tie up any loose ends or lingering questions jurors might have.
Some of the more effective rebuttals also came from Ronnie Crosby and Mark Ball, former law partners of Murdaugh, who each testified and clarified that Alex Murdaugh told them he checked the bodies of Paul and Maggie before he called 911, something Murdaugh and his defense team sought to discount from the stand last week.
Ball also testified Alex never expressed distrust of SLED to him, despite Murdaugh claiming last week in testimony that is what led him to lie to investigators.
Crosby said Alex was a “theatrical presence” in the courtroom and could get very emotional before jurors.
In a testy exchange on cross-examination, defense attorney Dick Harpootlian suggested that Crosby testified against Murdaugh because he was holding a grudge against him.
Murdaugh stole millions of dollars from the law firm, some of which Crosby has personally had to pay back.
Crosby denied this several times.
“I have had anger with him, extreme anger, Mr. Harpootlian, because of what he did to my law firm, my partners, my clients, his clients, our clients, what he did to his family, what he’s done to so many people,” Crosby said. “Yes, I experienced a lot of anger, but you can’t walk around with anger. You have to find a way to deal with it and move forward. And I have done that. And if you suggest, you are dead wrong if you think I’ve come in here and told this jury something because of money when we’re talking about two people who were brutally murdered, then you’re headed in the wrong direction.”
“Do you think he did it?” Harpootlian asked.
“I don’t have an opinion,” Crosby replied. “I don’t have the benefit of the materials you have.”
Crosby and Ball also testified that the first time they had realized that Murdaugh lied about being at the crime scene just minutes before the murders was during the defendant’s testimony last week.
Another effective rebuttal came from Dr. Ellen Riemer, who performed Maggie and Paul’s autopsies.
She testified Paul’s head wound was not a contact shot, as Kinsey also asserted.
Harpootlian pressed Riemer for an hour on this, and she would not change her opinion.
Paul Manigault, a cell phone expert from Charleston County, also testified about a test he did over the weekend that indicated that the screen would not necessarily turn on if it is tossed.
He tossed the phone several times “like a frisbee.”
This is important because prosecutors claim Murdaugh threw Maggie’s phone the night of the murders, and the screen did not turn on.
The defense sought to strike Manigault’s testimony because he didn’t log his experiments, but presiding Judge Clifton Newman allowed the testimony to stand.
Another key rebuttal came from former Hampton County Sheriff T.C. Smalls, who testified that Alex never asked to install blue lights in his vehicle, even though Alex claimed he asked permission to do so last week when he testified.
Smalls also said Murdaugh never contacted him about the boat crash or any threats the family received: there were no police reports, and no requests to investigate.
On Wednesday morning, the jury heads to Moselle to survey the murder scene at the kennels.
However, there will be no presentations there.
Newman will accompany the jurors and take any questions they might have, but they cannot discuss the case with each other.
After that trip, the court will hear closing arguments.
It is possible the jury will have this case in their hands by Thursday in what has become one of the longest criminal trials in South Carolina history.
TC Smalls- retired Hampton County Sheriff testified that Alex never asked him to install blue lights on his vehicle.— Greg Adaline (@GregWISTV) February 28, 2023
Murdaugh said he got permission to do so- from the witness stand last week. @wis10 #MurdaughTrial
Update from day 25 of the Alex Murdaugh double murder trial:— Nick Neville (@NickNeville_) February 28, 2023
John Marvin Murdaugh took the stand in defense of his brother.
He said the family was cooperative in the investigation, & he believes the real killer remains at large.#MurdaughTrial
MORE: https://t.co/9XgnfL5rXa pic.twitter.com/ff85gKDxQJ
Defense begs Newman to limit states rebuttal saying “we’ll be here till next week” if Waters rehashes prior testimony.— Greg Adaline (@GregWISTV) February 28, 2023
Newman says state’s rebuttal evidence must be “finely tailored”, saying what most watching are thinking:
“There must be a limit.” @wis10 #MurdaughTrial
Court began at 9:30 a.m. You can watch below or stream on our YouTube channel.
WANT TO CATCH UP ON THE TRIAL FROM THE BEGINNING? CLICK THE LINK HERE.
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