The prosecution had better luck with murder than a day of reckoning: Murdaugh’s financial misdeeds and his love affair with his family
“A lot of times people hear, ‘Oh, it’s just a circumstantial case,’ but the law says otherwise,” prosecutor Creighton Waters told the jury. “The law says circumstantial evidence is just as good as direct evidence.”
For the defense, that evidence amounts to little more than “speculation” and “conjecture,” attorney Dick Harpootlian argued. The prosecution focused on irrelevant financial malfeasance but the team highlighted Murdaugh’s loving relationships with his family.
“They’ve got a whole lot more evidence about financial misconduct than they have about a murder and evidence of guilt in a murder case,” defense lawyer Jim Griffin said in court during a debate on the relevance of this testimony.
A number of witnesses have come forward to say that Murdaugh has lied to many people in the past about his financial misdeeds at his law firm. A “day of reckoning” was coming from several different angles, so he killed his family to distract and delay those financial investigations, the prosecution has argued.
Legal experts who have followed the trial told CNN the prosecution’s lack of direct evidence makes it harder to convict – though certainly not impossible.
“It makes the case even more difficult, that’s for sure,” said Marris. If the prosecutors have enough evidence that they can put together a story and show reason and opportunity, it can certainly rise to the level needed to get a conviction.
“Jurors want science, jurors want DNA, jurors want something that’s persuasive,” Azari said. The focus of the prosecutors is now on the tenuous motive and the lies after the fact because they don’t have evidence to back it up.
Surveillance footage of Murdaugh and his friend, David Britton Dove, during the two-day shooting spree in Islandton
According to Lt., a video was recorded on Paul’s phone only minutes before he and his friend were killed. David Britton Dove, a supervisor in the computer crimes center at the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.
The video was filmed at their family home in Islandton and focuses on one of their dogs. In the background, three different voices can be heard in the footage, and family friends identified those voices as that of Alex, Paul andMaggie.
Shelly Smith, a home care worker who was taking care of Murdaugh’s mother, testified that Murdaugh indeed visited his mother’s home for about 15 to 20 minutes on the night of the murders. A few days later, they again saw each other and Murdaugh insisted that he had been there 30 to 40 minutes on the night of the murders, she testified.
Harpootlian said the audio just showed a normal discussion between Murdaugh and his wife. Harpootlian said that Paul is very happy. “Nobody’s down there threatening him. Daddy is not going to kill him with a shotgun.
The prosecution has used that Snapchat video to try to disprove his assertion that he was asleep, and other testimony has also cut into his claims about how long he had been with his mother.
The Case of Alex Murdaugh, Michael Seckinger, Jr.: A Prosecusional Search for Money and a Crime-for-hire Plot
Prosecutors said that Murdaugh had admitted to stealing money from his law firm and clients at the time of the killings. Prosecutors say that Murdaugh killed his wife and son to stop the damage from being done.
The chief financial officer of the law firm confronted Murdaugh about the missing funds hours before the killings. After the murders, the internal investigation into the funds took a backseat.
“We weren’t going to go in there and harass him about money when we were worried about his mental state and the fact that his family had been killed,” the CFO, Jeanne Seckinger, testified.
The connection to the boat crash. Waters questioned Murdaugh about the idea he could be involved in the murders of his wife and son. Murdaugh said he believed a fatal boat wreck that Paul was involved in was the reason for the killings. He pointed out that he did not believe anyone in the boat wreck had anything to do with the murders, but that someone had heard about it.
His law firm confronted him again and he resigned when they found out about the insurance scam and murder-for-hire plot.
Prosecutors rested their case Friday after calling more than 60 witnesses to bolster their argument that Alex Murdaugh shot and killed his wife, Margaret “Maggie” Murdaugh, and son Paul Murdaugh at the family’s Islandton estate in June 2021 in an attempt to distract from financial misconduct allegations against him.
Murdaugh said his use of the drug was a cause of his financial problems. He said he used some of the money he stole to buy pills, but not all of it. Some money was being used to fund what the prosecution called a “wealthy lifestyle,” a term Murdaugh said he would not take issue with.
On Friday, Murdaugh admitted sometimes taking more than 2,000 milligrams of oxycodone per day in the months leading up to the deaths of his wife and son. He testified that the drugs gave him energy and made him more interesting.
The jury also has heard testimony about a roadside shooting that injured Murdaugh in September 2021, months after the killings. Authorities have alleged that Murdaugh arranged for another man to shoot him so that Buster could obtain millions of dollars in life insurance.
He admitted to investigators that when he came back home, he found his wife and son lifeless on the floor outside of their dog house.
The trial of Paul Murdaugh, the first witness in the June 7 murders, was adjourned for an hour and a half
Colleton County Coroner Richard Harvey, the defense’s first witness on Friday, said he estimated Paul and Maggie’s times of death to be around 9 p.m. on June 7, 2021, based on body temperature checks.
A video on Paul’s phone beginning at 8:44p.m shows a dog being taken from the family at the kennels. David Dove was a supervisor in the computer crimes center.
The court was adjourned for the weekend after about six hours of testimony on Friday, but the case will be heard again on Monday.
You think that we have a photographic memory about the details that have to fit now, but you’re fuzzy on other things? You disagree with that?”
The cross examination started after the lunch break. Waters pointed out inconsistencies in the statements Murdaugh made to police, including his claim that he had not been at the dog kennels. The jury saw a few of the taped interviews.
Waters looked at cell phone data and other evidence from the night of the murders to poke holes in the testimony of Murdaugh.
“I know what I wasn’t doing, Mr. Waters, and what I wasn’t doing is doing anything, as I believe you’ve implied, that I was cleaning off or … washing off guns or putting guns in a raincoat. Murdaugh promised to you that he wasn’t doing any of that.
“I never manufactured any alibi in any way shape or form because I did not, and would not, hurt my wife and my child,” he said. “So I know for a fact that I never, ever, ever created an alibi.”
He testified that the person who did what he did on June 7 hated Paul Murdaugh. “And they had anger in their heart.”
Waters scoured through a list of partners, friends and family members that Murdaugh had lied to over the years.
Shortly before 4 p.m., Waters concluded his cross examination and Murdaugh’s defense attorney, Jim Griffin, began questioning him again after a brief break. Griffin ended questioning shortly after and the court adjourned for the day.
Murdaugh lied to the people that I stole money from for me. He confessed that he had taken opiate painkillers
They are real people. They’re good people. They are all people that I care about; a lot of them that I did wrong by.
“Whether that came from me looking them in the eye or not, I can’t answer that. But I will agree with you that every single client I looked them in the eye and I believe that the people that I stole money from for all those years trusted me.”
“I did lie to them,” he said of his comments to investigators that he had not been that day to the estate’s dog kennels, where the bodies of Maggie and Paul were found, until he found them dead. He said that he lied because of paranoia caused by his addiction to opiate painkillers.
A cascade of events would follow, including Murdaugh quitting his law firm, revelations his shooting was a scheme to give life insurance money to his son, and his arrest in connection with alleged financial crimes and killings.
Before Murdaugh testified Thursday, a motion from the defense to limit the scope of questioning he would face was denied by the judge.
He said various factors contributed to his “paranoid thinking” which led to his decision to lie to police, including his “distrust of SLED,” (South Carolina Law Enforcement Division), questions about his relationship with his wife and son, and “the fact that I have a pocket full of pills in my pocket,” he said. The police interview clips were played by the prosecution.
According to Murdaugh, he would take “maybe 1,000 milligrams or 1,200 milligrams on a day I didn’t take as much or didn’t have as much, up to, I mean — there were days, many days, a lot of days, most days were more than that, and many days would be … more than 2,000 milligrams a day.” It is virtually unheard of for a doctor to prescribe a patient more than 100 milligrams of oxycodone a day for even the most severe acute or chronic pain.
Why should jurors listen to a criminal defense attorney about lying about where you were: What did you do in that case? A case study of Murdaugh
Legal experts say that hearing the testimony from the man himself was risky but could have helped Alex Murdaugh’s case.
“If you’re going to have somebody testify, having a lawyer who’s smart, who’s been in the courtroom, who’s lied for 20 years … that’s the guy you want on the stand,” criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor Mark Eiglarsh said. All it takes is a single juror to connect with him.
Finally, Murdaugh was able to use his decades of experience as an attorney to control the narrative when he was questioned by prosecutors, experts said. During those lines of questioning, prosecutors ideally want to elicit only “Yes” or “No” responses from a defendant to try and drive their point home, legal experts said. Murdaugh continuously gave explanations when he was asked. He could have been able to look more sympathetic to the jurors, if he had done that.
It was a million dollar question: Why did you lie about where you were? So he had to give an explanation as to that,” criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor Bernarda Villalona said. “That’s what I think is the main reason why the criminal defense attorney in this case made a calculated decision to put him on the stand.”
Legal experts said that putting it all out on the line and coming clean, like Murdaugh did during the trial, may have been an attempt by his defense to garner sympathy from jurors.
He was sympathetic to him trying to wrestle with addiction, and it may have made him paranoid and lied to the police about not being there, and they wanted to use that to show that he had a problem.
If he was addled by the addiction, he might have acted irrationally at the time and the jury might believe that he went off into a rampage and killed his family. It is a double-edged sword.
“What they’re doing, the prosecutors, is saying he’s a liar, he’s a cheat, he can’t be trusted and you should not at all take whatever he says at face value,” criminal defense attorney and CNN Legal Analyst Joey Jackson said.
Paul Murdaugh and his “Mags”: Killing his wife and son, or, if he were to kill them, he would surely kill them
Experts said Murdaugh was a model witness. He looked straight at the jurors when he talked about his slain wife and son, and he became emotional talking about them. He often referred to his wife as “Mags”, and called his son Paul-Paul.
Jessica Roth, professor at the Cardozo School of Law, said that one of the biggest sticking points in the trial is whether or not he would really do it. Would he kill his wife and son despite all the crimes he has committed?