Murdaugh jury seated, opening statements conclude

WALTERBORO, S.C. (WCSC/AP) – Opening statements from both sides present vastly completely different interpretations of what the state is asking key proof within the Alex Murdaugh homicide trial.

The 54-year-old Murdaugh is accused of killing his spouse, Maggie, 52; and their youngest son, Paul, 22; on the household’s rural looking property within the Islandton neighborhood on June 7, 2021. He’s charged with two counts of homicide and two weapons fees.

Earlier than dismissing for lunch, the state reiterated that they might pursue all 4 fees towards Murdaugh. Circuit Court docket Choose Clifton Newman will go over the specifics of these fees after the break.

Legal professionals on either side of the trial painted wholly completely different photos of the connection between Alex, Paul and Maggie.

Lead prosecutor Creighton Waters, in his opening assertion to the jury, referenced a video despatched by Paul simply earlier than the murders. Within the video, Waters asserts that the voices of all three Murdaughs might be heard and are simply identifiable. He makes use of this to put Alex on the scene of the murders on the evening of June 7, 2021.

In referencing the identical video, Murdaugh lawyer Dick Harpootlian says the dialog captured on the video is a traditional dialog about considered one of their chickens getting killed.

Waters pushes that Alex was not often with out his telephone so for his telephone to not have any exercise on the time of the murders after which come again simply after 9 p.m. is out of the unusual.

The state factors to a cellular phone video taken round three minutes earlier than the murders that places Alex on the scene.

“Three minutes after a video reveals he’s on the scene with the victims and he advised all people he was by no means there,” Waters mentioned.

Waters says Paul’s telephone went silent at 8:49 p.m. and he by no means learn or despatched one other textual content or made a telephone. Thirty seconds later, Waters mentioned, Maggie’s telephone went silent as effectively.

Waters additionally mentions that Alex had bought three completely different .300 Blackout rifles, one for every of his sons in 2016 and a 3rd in 2018 after Paul’s was stolen. Waters says investigators had been solely capable of find one of many rifles on the Moselle property.

Harpootlian within the protection’s opening assertion describes the killing of Paul and Maggie as brutal, execution-style murders.

He asks the jury to contemplate how the Murdaughs might go from a loving household to Alex murdering Paul in an hour.

“So to seek out Alex Murdaugh responsible of murdering his son, you’re going to have to just accept they went from having a terribly bonding. You’ll be able to see it within the Snapchat. That he executes him in a brutal vogue,” Harpootlian mentioned. “Not plausible.”

A lot of the protection’s assertion to the jury revolved round what they are saying is a scarcity of forensic proof that hyperlinks Murdaugh to the crime scene and to the shootings.

“There’s no forensics tying him to the homicide, after I say forensics, fingerprints, blood, no matter, tying him to taking pictures anyone that day,” Harpootlian mentioned. “The cellphone data point out that he had lower than 10 minutes to kill them, stand up to the home, get within the automotive and crank it up. He’d be coated in blood.”

After opening statements wrapped up for either side, Newman requested the state in the event that they had been able to name the primary witness.

The state mentioned that they had been ready to name somebody who responded to the scene on the evening of the murders and proven footage from the worn bodycam, however the courtroom’s audio/visible system was not permitting sound to play out.

Unable to play out the footage, the courtroom was put into recess till 9:30 a.m.

The morning began with 122 potential jurors reporting to the courtroom. As soon as roll name was accomplished, Choose Clifton Newman started the method of whittling down the pool to 80 jurors that might make up the ultimate group for jury choice, which started in earnest round 12:40 p.m. with the primary juror quantity referred to as to be chosen for service.

The protection would use the primary of its strikes on the second juror introduced. The remaining choices noticed the state use two strikes. The protection would end the preliminary choices utilizing two extra strikes.

The number of the six alternates for the jury would see the prosecution utilizing one strike and the protection utilizing each of its strikes.

The jury was then sworn in and the courtroom was put into recess for a lunch break. The make-up of the jury is 4 white males, six white ladies and two Black ladies. The alternates embrace three white males, one Black man and two Black ladies.

Newman additionally addressed issues about graphic pictures and video of the victims issuing an order to maintain these gadgets beneath seal.

Newman heard a sequence of motions on Tuesday afternoon, in the end deciding to attend till the problems come up at trial to determine whether or not jurors hear proof about blood spatter or different crimes Murdaugh is charged with. Prosecutors have argued that the murders had been a cover-up for Alex Murdaugh’s monetary misdeeds. Beforehand, the protection has mentioned the state turned over tens of millions of pages of paperwork throughout discovery about these monetary crimes.

Murdaugh additionally faces about 100 charges associated to different crimes, together with cash laundering, stealing tens of millions from purchasers, tax evasion and attempting to get a person to fatally shoot him so his surviving son might gather a $10 million life insurance coverage coverage. He was being held in jail with out bail on these counts earlier than he was charged with homicide.

The protection says this motive is totally fabricated.

“His principle is, he knew the jig was up, so he went residence, and butchered, blew the top off his son, and butchered his spouse,” Murdaugh’s protection lawyer Dick Harpootlian mentioned. “There’s not one shred of proof there have been any issues between any of them. There’s texts, photos, those that had been with them the earlier weekend at a ball recreation, video from that day with Paul and he’s having an excellent time. There isn’t any dispute wherever that they had been the right household when it comes to their relationships.”

Newman advised the attorneys he’ll determine on a case-by-case foundation outdoors the jury’s presence.

SPECIAL SECTION: The Murdaugh Cases

Within the blood spatter proof, Murdaugh’s legal professionals mentioned emails turned over to them by prosecutors confirmed an professional, who analyzed the t-shirt Murdaugh was sporting when he mentioned he discovered the our bodies, initially decided there have been no blood spatter stains, solely spots that would have occurred when Murdaugh checked to see if his son and spouse had been nonetheless alive.

The professional modified his thoughts a number of weeks later after state brokers flew to his residence in Oklahoma, based on the emails cited by Murdaugh’s legal professionals. Testing on the shirt used chemical compounds that made it not possible for any protection professional to do their very own testing and even verify the unique outcomes, the protection mentioned.

The protection agreed to attend and see if prosecutors determine to deliver that professional to the stand.

The decide denied a request Tuesday by Murdaugh’s legal professionals to forestall an professional from testifying that rifle cartridges discovered close to his spouse’s physique have marks indicating they might have been fired from the identical gun that fired different cartridges discovered at a taking pictures vary on the property. Prosecutors mentioned an analogous mannequin gun stays lacking from the Murdaugh residence.

The protection mentioned latest scientific advances present ballistics consultants can’t say with 100% certainty that there are distinctive markings linking a gun to a cartridge. Prosecutors mentioned this type of proof is allowed in courtrooms on a regular basis. Newman mentioned protection legal professionals can query the professional throughout cross examination.

Prosecutor Creighton Waters requested for a ruing earlier than the jury was seated, possible as a result of he needs to say the proof in his opening assertion.

READ MORE: Judge approves settlement in Murdaugh boat crash lawsuits

Murdaugh faces 30 years to life in jail if convicted of homicide. He advised investigators he discovered their our bodies outdoors their Colleton County residence on June 7, 2021. He mentioned he’d been gone for about an hour to go to his ailing father and mom.

Court docket papers filed by the protection this week included against the law scene report detailing that Maggie Murdaugh was shot at the very least 4 instances and seemed to be transferring when she was wounded and Paul Murdaugh was shot twice, as soon as with buckshot and as soon as with smaller birdshot. Each had been killed by pictures to the top.

When requested throughout a preliminary listening to about what proof they might produce, prosecutors introduced an in depth timeline of how Murdaugh’s spouse and son had been killed the identical day a paralegal at a regulation agency reported he could be stealing cash.

READ MORE: Read full list of people who may testify in Murdaugh murder trial

State brokers and prosecutors took 13 months to hunt homicide indictments towards Murdaugh. The protection movement was the primary indication authorities might need one of many two weapons used. No proof has made public a couple of doable confession or an eyewitness account.

The trial is predicted to last as long as three weeks, with prosecutors and protection attorneys offering an inventory of 255 potential witnesses to the decide.

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