Jurors returned to the courthouse Friday morning as prosecutors continued to present their case against Alex Murdaugh over the brutal shooting murders of his wife and son in early June 2021.
The 54-year-old disgraced legal scion – disbarred as the murder allegations and myriad alleged financial improprieties came to light – is accused of shooting and killing his wife, Margaret “Maggie” Murdaugh, 52, and their youngest son Paul Murdaugh, 22.
On Thursday jurors heard a brief bit of rushed testimony from Snapchat employee, Heidi Galore, who used her tech expertise to produce a timestamp of a video recorded by Paul Murdaugh on the day he was killed. Galore, who was slotted in for a quick round of questioning because she was trying to catch a flight, identified the video in question – which shows the defendant dealing with a sagging tree – as being recorded at 7:38 p.m. on the day of the slayings.
After that, jurors were dismissed for a lengthy hearing on the admissibility of certain evidence from the day before. During that hearing, Judge Clifton Newman upbraided the defense for improperly objecting to a line of questioning by the state about those aforementioned monetary mismanagement issues.
Once jurors returned, the state called two additional witnesses.
The first witness was 14th Circuit investigator Dylan Hightower, who was at the 1,700-acre family hunting lodge known as Moselle the day after the murders. Hightower eventually found Maggie Murdaugh’s cellular phone off the side of a road nearby using the Find My iPhone feature with the defendant’s help. The investigator said he also downloaded Alex Murdaugh’s own cell phone in the days to follow and that when he checked the call log against records subpoenaed from Verizon, 73 calls had been deleted.
The second witness was SLED special agent Katie McAllister, who testified that she searched the hunting lodge the day after the murders without executing a search warrant because she did not want to displace the over two-dozen mourners. Under questioning from defense attorney Dick Harpootlian, McAllister said she found no evidence of blood or tissue in any of the showers or bathtubs, no bloody clothes, or otherwise evidence that someone had washed up inside the house after committing a violent crime.
On Friday, jurors first heard from SLED fingerprint examiner Thomas Darnell. His testimony appeared to be largely a wash.
The gist of this testimony is didn’t find any fingerprints on guns/ammo/Paul’s phone that could be identified. He also testified this is not unusual. #AlexMurdaugh
— Cathy Russon (@cathyrusson) February 3, 2023
Jurors next heard from SLED ballistics expert Paul Greer, who testified that spent shell casings near Maggie Murdaugh’s body had identical markings on them as older casings found near both the Moselle main house and shooting range – a callback to the prosecution’s promised testimony from day one of the trial.
During the state’s opening statement, lead prosecutor Creighton Waters said evidence would show that Alex Murdaugh owned a total of three AR-style Blackout rifles. The prosecutor said the state had recovered shell casings from a recent recreational shooting session with the Murdaughs and some friends from elsewhere on the expansive hunting lodge’s property. Those casings found were ejected from the same “family weapon” that killed Maggie Murdaugh, Waters alleged. He also said shotgun hulls were found on the family’s property that matched the type of ammunition used to kill Paul Murdaugh.
Defense attorney Jim Griffin frequently lodged objections throughout Greer’s testimony – which the defense initially tried to have excluded entirely by way of a pre-trial motion – but Judge Clfton Newman overruled each objection, telling Griffin to deal with the state’s witness during cross-examination.
During the defense’s questioning, Greer declined to say he was “100 percent” sure that casings near Maggie Murdaugh’s body were fired from the same weapon as the older casings found on the family property. He did, however, say that his conclusion was that the same gun produced those markings.
As for the shotgun that killed Paul Murdaugh, Greer said, he was unable to determine if any of the family’s guns seized by SLED – which he tested in a state crime lab – had been used in the slaying.
On Friday morning, the first few hours of the trial were taken up by an ongoing hearing on the admissibility of certain evidence concerning the defendant’s alleged financial crimes. That hearing began on Wednesday and will take up more of the court’s time next week.
Jurors will be back in court on Monday, Feb. 6, at 11:30 a.m.
[image via Joshua Boucher/The State/Pool]
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