Jury selection for Alex Murdaugh accused of killing wife, son
Alex Murdaugh is on trial accused of murdering his son and wife to cover up a yearslong fraud and money laundering scheme in a case that has gripped South Carolina.
Margaret Murdaugh, 52, and Paul Murdaugh, 22, were found shot dead on their rural Colleton County property in June 2021.
More than a year later, Mr Murdaugh, 54, was charged with their murder and has pleaded not guilty. Opening arguments will begin on Wednesday after the final jury was seated.
The trial marks a spectacular fall from grace for Mr Murdaugh, who was until recently a powerful attorney and came from three generations of district attorneys who reigned over South Carolina’s Lowcountry.
He has since been disbarred, and in a separate criminal case faces more than 100 charges for an alleged $9m tax evasion scheme.
In pre-trial arguments, prosecutors said they wanted to show the jury evidence of the other crimes Mr Murdaugh is charged with.
They argue that Mr Murdaugh killed his wife and son show he killed his wife and son as a distraction from the other crimes he was allegedly committing, which included money laundering and stealing settlement cash from clients.
DNA and gunshot residue links Alex Murdaugh to murders
Mr Waters says gunshot residue found on Alex Murdaugh’s clothes and seatbelt linked him to the crime scene on Moselle Rd.
DNA would also link him to the scene, but they key piece of evidence was cellphone data.
The key piece of forensic evidence in this case is the cellphones. Alex’s cellphone, Maggies’ cellphone, Paul’s cellphone,” Mr Waters said.
“They were prolific cellphone users, particularly Paul.”
Bevan Hurley25 January 2023 20:53
Prosecutor says AR-style rifle used in murder went missing years earlier
Prosecutor Creighton Waters says that an AR-style Blackout rifle that belonged to Paul Murdaugh went missing in 2018.
He said this was the gun that Alex Murdaugh used to kill his wife Maggie. He allegedly used a shotgun to kill his son.
Bevan Hurley25 January 2023 20:50
Cell phone evidence puts Alex Murdaugh at crime scene
Mr Waters tells the jury that cell phone data will prove that Alex Murdaugh was at the family’s sprawling hunting farm in Colleton County on 7 June 2021, the night Paul and Maggie died.
“The evidence will show that Alex Murdaugh told anyone who would listen that he was never at those kennels but the evidence is also going to show that he was there.
“He was there just minutes before with Maggie and Paul before their cellphone went silent… despite what he told people, their cell phones will tell us otherwise.”
Bevan Hurley25 January 2023 20:45
‘Catastrophic damage to his brain’
Prosecutor Creighton Waters begins by telling the jury that the evidence is going to show that Alex Murdaugh alone shot his son Paul and wife Maggie.
Mr Waters said Mr Murdaugh shot his son Paul with a rifle, causing “catastrophic damage to his brain”.
He then picked up an AR-style rifle and opened fire on his wife Maggie just feet away.
“Pow pow, two shots to the abdomen and the leg and took her down,” Mr Waters said.
“They didn’t see a threat coming from their attacker. They were shot at close range and they did not have defensive wounds.”
Bevan Hurley25 January 2023 20:38
Judge is addressing the jury
Circuit Judge Clifton Newman has begun addressing the jury on the trial process, the meaning of beyond reasonable doubt, and on the importance of not discussing the case with anyone outside of the courtroom.
This is all standard procedure ahead of the opening arguments, which should get underway shortly.
Bevan Hurley25 January 2023 20:32
Logistical issues delay start of Murdaugh trial
According to Fits News, opening arguments in the Alex Murdaugh murder trial have been delayed while court staff deal with technical issues.
“Court staff are dealing with some logistical issues inside the courtroom as equipment is being adjusted to ensure that defense attorneys – and Alex Murdaugh – can have a line of sight to all twelve members of the jury,” Fits News tweeted.
Bevan Hurley25 January 2023 20:27
Buster Murdaugh is on a list of potential defense witnesses
Alex Murdaugh’s son Buster Murdaugh, brother John Marvin Murdaugh, and sister-n-law Liz walked into court a few minutes ago.
All three are on a list of potential defense witnesses.
Buster Murdaugh has largely kept out of the public eye since his brother and mother were murdered in June 2021.
Bevan Hurley25 January 2023 20:16
Alex Murdaugh’s son Buster has arrived at court
Buster Murdaugh, Alex’s sole surviving son, has just arrived at the Colleton County Court.
Bevan Hurley25 January 2023 20:02
Jury selected, opening arguments to begin at 3pm
Opening arguments are due to begin in just under 20 minutes.
Appearing for the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office is likely to be lead prosecutor Creighton Waters.
Representing Alex Murdaugh for the defence are high-profile trial lawyer and South Carolina State Senator Dick Harpootlian and former assistant US attorney Jim Griffin.
Bevan Hurley25 January 2023 19:43
Judge to decide how much of Murdaugh’s other offending is admissible
A judge will decide on a case-by-case basis how much the jury will learn about Alex Murdaugh’s financial crimes.
Prosecutors had sought to present “voluminous evidence of Murdaugh’s bad behaviour and the numerous crimes”, the Associated Press reports.
They argue that Mr Murdaugh killed his wife and son to prevent his other crimes from being uncovered.
The AP reports that Circuit Judge Clifton Newman told the attorneys Tuesday that he will make a ruling on what to include as it arises and outside the jury’s presence.
Bevan Hurley25 January 2023 19:00