Prosecutors in the office of South Carolina attorney general Alan Wilson scored a major win on the second day of the double homicide trial of Alex Murdaugh – the disbarred attorney at the epicenter of the ‘Murdaugh Murders‘ crime and corruption saga.
Wilson’s prosecutors won a major pre-trial motion over the admissibility of key ballistics evidence – along with accompanying testimony from expert witness Paul S. Greer of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED).
Greer has traced ammunition used in the murder of one of Murdaugh’s victims to ammunition found at other sites on the family hunting property where they were killed – and tied all of this ammunition to a missing gun owned by Alex Murdaugh.
According to that motion (.pdf), Greer’s testimony should have been excluded – or limited – during the upcoming trial because “his opinion testimony does not aid the trier of fact to understand the evidence.”
S.C. circuit court judge Clifton Newman – who was tapped by the S.C. supreme court to handle this case back in September of 2021 – disagreed, allowing the state to admit what lead prosecutor Creighton Waters referred to as a “very significant piece of evidence.”
(Click to view)
Newman ruled that prosecutors had “met the threshold” to include both the evidence and the accompanying testimony – concluding it would “assist the jury” in its deliberations. He further found Greer was “well-qualified” to speak to the subject matter at issue. Finally, Newman rejected the defense’s contention that ballistics evidence was not an established science.
“The underlying science is solid,” Newman said at the conclusion of a two-and-a-half hour hearing on Tuesday afternoon.
Murdaugh’s attorney Griffin did an admirable job pushing back against Greer’s findings, challenging him on his contention that 300 blackout cartridges fired at the murder scene “came from the same weapon that fired .300 blackout cartridges at (a) shooting range and near the residence.”
“Are you able to state with a reasonable degree of certainty that only one weapon in the world could have made these marks?” Griffin asked Greer.
Greer repeatedly referred to “matching mechanism marks” on the ammunition, which led him to conclude the projectiles “came from the same firearm.”
Griffin pushed back, saying Greer could be confusing the fact that ammunition from guns “produced in the same production lots have identical markings.”
Greer responded that his analysis – which was confirmed by two independent SLED analyses – was based on “pattern matching” that enabled him to “distinguish and correctly identify” the weapon from others manufactured in the same lot.
The ballistic evidence and testimony lies at the very heart of the case against Murdaugh – who is accused of savagely murdering his family members nineteen months ago.
To recap: Sometime after 8:44 p.m. EDT on June 7, 2021, state prosecutors say Murdaugh savagely dispatched his wife, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh, and their younger son, 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh, near the dog kennels on the family’s 1,700-acre hunting property – known locally as Moselle.
Paul Murdaugh was hit by a pair of shotgun blasts on that fateful evening – one to the head, the other to the arm and chest. Maggie Murdaugh was killed by multiple rounds from a semi-automatic rifle around the same time her son was killed. At least two of Maggie Murdaugh’s gunshot wounds were inflicted as she was lying wounded on the ground – consistent with initial reports we received of “execution-style” slayings.
For those of you unhip to rifle rounds,.300 blackout ammunition is preferable in some hunting and home defense situations to the AR-15’s typical chambering (5.56) because it offers increased power without the intense recoil and over-penetration associated with heavier rounds.
The rifle used to kill Maggie Murdaugh has not yet been found. Nor has the shotgun used to kill Paul Murdaugh.
As SLED agents continue searching diligently for these weapons, Greer was able to conclude something significant … that .300 blackout cartridges found at a shooting range and near the residence were “loaded into, extracted and ejected from the same firearm at some previous time.”
In other words, while prosecutors may not have the murder weapons in hand – they can point to the next best thing: That those weapons allegedly belonged to the Murdaugh’s and were used on the Murdaugh’s property on previous occasions.
This would tie in nicely with the prosecution’s theory of the timeline of the murders – and how that timeline wrecked Murdaugh’s so-called “ironclad” alibi. It would also dovetail nicely into one of the key witnesses in the case, who is expected to testify they saw Murdaugh “hiding evidence” in the aftermath of the murders at his parents home in Almeda, S.C.
It could also point to a potential accomplice in the crimes … or an accessory after the fact.
Furthermore, the testimony Greer is expected to provide would severely undermine Murdaugh’s claim that the “real killers” of his wife and son were vigilantes looking to kill Paul as retribution for his involvement in a fatal 2019 boat crash that killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach of Hampton, S.C.
This is a developing story … please check back for updates.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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