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Welcome back to our coverage of the double homicide trial of disbarred South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh – which is midway through its fifth week.
Murdaugh is the scion of an influential Lowcountry legal dynasty – a man who once led the Palmetto State’s powerful trial lawyers’ lobby. Today, he sits at the epicenter of a maze of alleged criminality known as the ‘Murdaugh Murders’ crime and corruption saga.
In addition to a host of other alleged crimes, Murdaugh stands accused of killing his wife, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh, and youngest son, 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh, on his family’s hunting property in Colleton County, S.C. on June 7, 2021. He pleaded not guilty to those charges and is currently standing trial in Walterboro – part of the Lowcountry region of the Palmetto State which his famous family ruled like a fiefdom for more than a century.
Yesterday, Murdaugh’s attorneys Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin continued their defense of Murdaugh – calling his surviving son Buster Murdaugh to the stand. For our recap of Buster Murdaugh’s testimony, click here. And in case you missed it, click here for our founding editor Will Folks‘ take on a controversy (nontroversy?) dominating discussion on social media following testimony from the defense’s forensic analyst.
Today, the defense is expected to call Murdaugh’s former law partner Mark Ball to the stand – along with a footprint expert.
Yet to be determined? Whether Murdaugh will take the stand in his own defense … and if so, when.
To keep up to speed on the latest developments from inside the Colleton County courthouse, follow our livestream/ feed below …
THE POLLS …
From the opening gavel of this trial, we have launched two daily polls asking readers to weigh in on 1) whether they think Alex Murdaugh is guilty or not guilty of murdering his late wife, Maggie Murdaugh and, 2) whether they think he is guilty or not guilty of murdering his late son, Paul Murdaugh.
The goal of our daily polls is to track how perceptions of Murdaugh’s guilt or innocence related to the murders of his two alleged victims have evolved over the course of the trial.
As of yesterday, 89 percent of respondents believed Murdaugh was guilty of killing his wife compared to roughly five percent who said he was not guilty and five percent who said they were unsure. These percentages were roughly identical to the responses received when our audience was asked whether they believed Murdaugh killed his son.
Here are today’s polls …
QUESTION ONE …
Based on the information you have now, is Alex Murdaugh guilty or not guilty of the murder of Maggie Murdaugh?
QUESTION TWO …
Based on the information you have now, is Alex Murdaugh guilty or not guilty of the murder of Paul Murdaugh?
THE FEED …
5:08 p.m. EST – Barber is on re-direct. He asks if someone running can cause a phone event. Sturgis replies yes. He also states he cannot tell the court what tossing the phone out of a car can do.
5:02 p.m. EST – Conrad emphasizes in cross-examination that Paul and Maggie’s phones locked for the final time within the same minute – at 8:49 p.m. on 6/7/21.
4:56 p.m. EST – Sturgis agrees that orientation changes on a phone are typically caused by human interaction.
4:48 p.m. EST – Cross-examination by the State has begun. Sturgis states that an iPhone retains data and uses GPS data to store as a cache. iOs limits the cache of some data. He states Maggie’s phone had the 14.7 version of iOs. Conrad asks Sturgis if he is aware of the update of iOs 15 that changed how data orientation is recorded. Sturgis states he is not aware of that change.
4:25 p.m. EST – According to Sturgis, an orientation change on a phone occurs when the phone is backlit. The orientation change indicates a change in the orientation of the data on the phone and not the physical orientation of the device. Orientation change of the phone does not change when the phone is off.
4:15 p.m. EST – Sturgis testifies regarding steps recorded by Murdaugh’s phone and says in his opinion the count of steps is more accurate than the distance recorded.
4:10 p.m. EST – The defense calls Micah Sturgis. Sturgis is a cellbrite expert.
4:06 p.m. EST – Mixon tells Griffin that two police officers came to her house to tell her about Maggie and Paul Murdaugh. She worked Monday through Wednesday the week after Randolph Murdaugh’s funeral. She states she arrived at 7:55 a.m. each of these days and relieved Shelly Smith. She also states she never saw a blue tarp on any of those days.
4:02 p.m. EST – Mrs. Barbara testifies that she spoke with Maggie the evening of June 7, 2021. Maggie told her she would be making dinner for her in-laws that week. She states John Marvin came to take Mr. Randolph to the doctor because she was real sick. She called Alex on the afternoon of June 7, 2021 and they spoke about Mrs. Libby. Barbara states she told Alex that his mother was very agitated and that he needed to come check on her later.
3:58 p.m. EST – The defense calls Barbara Ann Mixon. Mrs. Barbara was Randolph and Libby’s housekeeper for 42 years. She knew Alex and his family well and says she loved Murdaugh as if he were her own child. Mrs. Barbara testifies that Alex stopped by most days to check on his parents. She works from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
3:35 p.m. EST – Meadors has completed his cross-examination. Dick Harpootlian is on re-direct. Zercie states that the presence of footprints over footprints at the crime scene indicates the crime scene was not protected. Questioning of Kenneth Zercie has ended. Judge Newman has called for a recess.
3:23 p.m. EST – Zercie states he does not disagree with Agent Worley’s findings.
3:07 p.m. EST – Zercie explains he was only presented with images of the crime scene and not additional information. From a scientific perspective, he cannot tell how a shoe imprint occurred or when it was put there. He states he avoids witness statements as they are unreliable.
2:58 p.m. EST – The State has begun cross-examination of Kenneth Zercie. Zercie states he was not asked to issue a report on the Murdaugh case, but was asked to do a procedural review of the investigation. Meadors asks if he can receive a copy of Zercie’s report.
2:56 p.m. EST – Harpootlian asks Zercie if SLED did an adequate job and Zercie says he does not believe they did.
2:40 p.m. EST – Zercie tells Harpootlian that he did not see any indication that any of the surfaces in the feed room had been processed.
2:36 p.m. EST – Zercie testifies regarding evidence collection processes stating a bridge can be built over evidence to preserve it.
2:32 p.m. EST – Zercie states the same process should have been followed with Maggie’s body.
2:30 p.m. EST – When asked if he would have covered Paul Murdaugh’s body should have been covered by a sheet, Zercie states it depends. He further clarifies that if his body was covered, the sheet should be processed along with his clothes.
2:27 p.m. EST – Zercie testifies that first responders in the BWC footage should have been wearing booties as a protective measure.
12:41 p.m. EST – Zercie is presenting a powerpoint presentation to the court. Judge Newman has called a lunch recess until 2:15 p.m. EST.
12:35 p.m. EST – Zercie tells Dick Harpootlian that photographs of a crime scene are important. Harpootlian is going through Zercie’s qualifications. He is qualified as an expert.
12:29 p.m. EST – The defense calls Kenneth Zercie to the stand. Zercie is a forensic scientist from Connecticut.
12:26 p.m. EST – Cooke confirms that after the homicides, Mark Tinsley agreed to reschedule the hearing about financial disclosures. Cross-examination is complete. Fox is on re-direct. Fox asks Cooke if just because it’s possible the motion to compel Murdaugh’s finances was possible, it does not mean it’s plausible. Waters objects. Judge Newman sustains. Cooke tells Fox that if the motion to compel had been granted, the documents would not have been required immediately.
12:23 p.m. EST – Waters asks, “Could you repeat that you just testified that the motion to get those financial information is meant to really worry the defendants. Your exact words, correct?” Cooke responds affirmatively.
12:21 p.m. EST – Cooke tells Fox that he did not expect any cataclysmic event to occur on June 10, 2021. Fox has completed direct examination. Waters is conducting cross-examination.
12:12 p.m. EST – Cooke explains the interrogatories and motions filed leading up to June 7, 2021 in the boat case, “The Rules of Civil Procedure provide various means of obtaining information from the other side. So the interrogatory is is questions that you can ask and then request to produce our documents and other materials that you can require the provided the supplemental ones that we’re looking at right here, where they’re seeking financial information.” He explains that the financial discovery is the plaintiff’s lawyer’s way of saying they are serious and intimidate and it’s very common. The typical response to this from the defense would be to object as it’s not relevant as the plaintiff hasn’t gotten a judgment against them, “You don’t need to know how much money we have.”
12:09 p.m. EST – When asked what his understanding of Murdaugh’s potential financial exposure in the boat case on June 7, 2021, he states there were still outstanding insurance issues being clarified.
12:06 p.m. EST – The defense calls Dawes Cooke to the stand. Margaret Fox is conducting direct examination for the defense. Cooke is a Charleston-based attorney who joined Murdaugh’s civil team in the wrongful death case against him in the boat crash. Cooke states he was brought on as a second chair after John Tiller got sick to help out. Cooke says that the legal team thought the case was a defensible claim.
12:04 p.m. EST – Waters asks Ball about Murdaugh telling him he never went to the kennels after dinner on June 7, 2021. Ball says that he knows now that is a lie after hearing the video at the kennels.
12:00 p.m. EST – Mark Ball tells Griffin, “You don’t kick your brother out the door because, you know, they snore at night or you know, they’ve done things that aggravate you. You get past it. But when they do things that are criminal and they do things that affect not only him – he’s torn down an entire legacy, a law firm. He continued, “We had to change the name, we’ve had to do all these things because of his acts on this financial stuff. And when it comes to that, I’m mad as hell. I mean you just don’t know how mad I am. But on the other hand, I’m not saying that because he did that he’s done what he’s accused of.” Griffin has completed his re-direct. Waters is conducting re-cross examination.
11:56 a.m. EST – Griffin asks Ball about how he thought Murdaugh had committed suicide when he first heard about the roadside shooting. He says Murdaugh was not “firing on all cylinders” and should see a mental health counselor. Ball testifies that September 2, 2021 changed everything he thought he knew about Murdaugh. He says
11:54 a.m. EST – Ball confirms the cell service is not good at Moselle. Before the Murdaugh’s bought Moselle, Alex would bring Paul to Mark Ball’s farm to hunt. Ball says both Paul and Alex left guns at his farm.
11:48 a.m. EST – Griffin has begun re-direct of Mark Ball. Ball says that after the funerals of Maggie, Paul and his father, Murdaugh was not in any shape to work through the month of June.
11:44 a.m. EST – Ball testifies that Jim Griffin called him after the roadside shooting on September 4th, 2021. He says Griffin said, “You’re not gonna believe what happened.” Ball said his firs response was, “Don’t tell me that jackass killed himself.” Ball says that he went to the scene with Ronnie Crosby and Danny Henderson because he didn’t believe it and continues, “And we walked up towards the car. And I think I said it’s got run flat tires and the tires are not flat. Before we got to it, Ronnie said, ‘it don’t even have a spare.'”
11:42 a.m. EST – Ball said the Thomas Moore case was when the firm realized definitively that Murdaugh was stealing from clients as there was still an open workers’ compensation claim in that case.
11:39 a.m. EST – Ball testifies on the night of the murders there was a golf cart parked next to the main house at Moselle.
11:36 am EST – Ball confirms Murdaugh received fees in all those cases and still stole settlements from clients. Waters asks Ball about the day after the homicides when they went back to Moselle. He tells Waters that on June 7, 2021 he did not observe blood on Murdaugh, but notes when he went back to the crime scene on June 8, 2021, he got blood on his sleeve when he went into the feed room.
11:31 a.m. EST – The first client discussed is Barrett Boulware. The money stolen resulted from a fire claim on property owned by Boulware. Murdaugh stole $75,000 from Boulware’s settlement and Ball states that while Boulware was dying of colon cancer, his wife needed that money to put herself up in a hotel near the hospital. Additional clients names include the estate of Jacob Hershberger, Deon Martin, Elise Mallory, Christopher Anderson, the Risher case, Johnny Bush, JJ Jinks, Santis-Cristiani, Randy Drawdy, and Thomas Moore. Ball states this is not the whole list, “There’s many more.”
11:27 a.m. EST – Creighton Waters has resumed his cross-examination of Mark Ball. Ball testifies that Jeanne Seckinger did a query on the term “Forge” in the PMPED system and they cross-referenced those results with the real Forge. They found clients who did not know their settlements had been received and Ball states he was the person responsible for contacting the majority of their clients. Waters asks him to go through the list of clients.
11:07 a.m. EST – Judge Newman has called for a short recess.
11:03 a.m. EST – Ball tells Waters that Paul Murdaugh was a good kid. He describes Paul as very polite and says he would help him out on the farm in a second if asked. Ball states that after the homicides there was a decision made to put the investigation into the Farris fees on hold.
10:56 a.m. EST – Ball is discussing a 2017 instance where Murdaugh was issued a check from PMPED when he shouldn’t have been. Ball says that Murdaugh paid the money back with interest, but at the time, it didn’t raise any huge red flags. Ball testifies that there were issues with Murdaugh using the firm credit cards for personal expenses. He said he would pay it back and it went on for years.
10:53 a.m. EST – Ball describes Murdaugh as a very talented and tactical attorney. He states he could talk to anyone. Ball says that Murdaugh could be very convincing, “He.convinced us.”
10:47 a.m. EST – Ball says that the Murdaugh family legacy was very important to Alex Murdaugh. More so than the other Murdaugh family members.
10:43 a.m. EST – Ball says initially they were very concerned about the safety of the 65-70 law firm employees. He also says that on the night of the homicides, Murdaugh was initially very concerned about Buster Murdaugh’s safety. Then he didn’t seem to be concerned after that.
10:38 a.m. EST – Ball states in conversations following the homicides, Murdaugh was always clear that he never went down to the kennels that after they ate dinner. He states that Murdaugh’s story regarding who he checked on first did change. Murdaugh stated that he checked Maggie first and then went to Paul. Then Ball states he heard Murdaugh say at one point that it was Paul and then as Maggie. He said, “It didn’t really matter to me.”
10:33 a.m. EST – Creighton Waters has begun cross-examination of Mark Ball. Waters starts out asking Ball about Murdaugh, “He was pretty good at hiding who he really was?” Ball replies, “Obviously.” Waters asks Ball if he has listened to the 8:44 p.m. video and Ball states that has listened to it. He says there is no doubt in his mind the voices on the video are those of Alex, Maggie, and Paul Murdaugh.
10:30 a.m. EST – Ball says, “The person I thought I knew loved his family or appeared to love his family very much.” He continued, “After you know, September the third, I’m not sure I know that person.” Griffin has completed direct examination of Mark Ball.
10:26 a.m. EST – Ball testifies that after Murdaugh resigned from the law firm, he went through Murdaugh’s desk. He found checks that Murdaugh had deposited with his telephone that appeared to be funds from the Farris case laying on his top of his desk and in a drawer. When he pulled out one of the drawers in the desk, he found a legal tablet that had numbers written down on it that appeared to be a listing of debts and assets.
10:22 a.m. EST – Ball says the criminal aspect of the boating case was more concerning to Murdaugh than the civil complaint. Ball further states that the cause of action in the wrongful death case was very typical and intended to get insurance money.
10:20 a.m. EST – Ball is played the “I did him/they did him so bad clip.” He believes Murdaugh said, “they.”
10:14 a.m. EST – Ball tells Griffin that when he got to Moselle a SLED agent told him that Maggie had been killed with a .300 Blackout rifle but they couldn’t find one in the gun room. Ball says he located the gun for SLED agents. Ball says that C.B. Rowe showed up the next day and had jugs of Clorox bleach in the back of his truck. He states he thought it was odd and took pictures of the truck and sent them to SLED. He also states that there was a small Yeti cooler between the shed and the hanger with a dozen empty beer cans around it. This was never collected to his knowledge.
10:05 a.m. EST – Ball states one of the attorneys at the scene put the pots and pans in the fridge at Moselle. He states he left Moselle at 3:30 or 4:00 a.m. on June 8, 2021. He says Randy Murdaugh called him at 8:15 a.m. and said he and John Marvin had tried to clean up the crime scene and couldn’t do it. He states at that time the crime scene had been released which surprised him. When he got back to Moselle after a deposition he had scheduled, he states the crime scene did not look processed. There were still human remains in the feed room and buckshot not collected. He said there was a piece of Paul’s skull the size of a baseball still on the ground.
10:01 a.m. EST – Ball states that the coroner came over and told them SLED was there and they were ready to start processing the crime scene. Ball says that Harvey told him that everyone needed to leave and suggested they go over to the house. Ball says he asked if they were sure about that and Harvey said, “Yeah.” Ball further questioned saying, “Are you sure it’s okay for us to go the house?” He says he was worried because two people had been gunned down and he wasn’t sure if the house was part of the crime scene.
9:58 a.m. EST – Ball tells Griffin that he was trying to console Murdaugh and patting him on the back and Murdaugh said, “Look at what they did. Look at what they did to them.” He states he thought the phrasing “they” was odd.
9:52 a.m. EST – Ball states that he witnessed law enforcement officers walking all over the crime scene at Moselle. He tells Griffin that water was dripping off the front of the shed where Paul Murdaugh’s body lay. He says the water rolled into the drain. He says that he thought it was disrespectful to Paul Murdaugh and “pissed” him off.
9:48 a.m. EST – Ball testifies that he learned of the murders at 10:30 p.m. on June 7, 2021 via phone call from Ronnie Crosby. He drove over to Moselle with his wife Lisa Ball. When he arrived, he pulled into the kennel driveway stating there were no barriers to him driving up. He states he arrived around 10:52 p.m. He states he spoke to fire chief, Barry McCoy and could see Randy Murdaugh and Colleton County Sheriff Buddy Hill about blocking the driveway off. He states the entrance did not get blocked off and people kept “piling in.”
9:44 a.m. EST – The jury has been brought in and the defense has called Mark Ball. Ball is a former law partner of Alex Murdaugh at PMPED. Ball has been an attorney for 33 years. Ball states he has known Murdaugh for 34 years.
9:41 a.m. EST – Judge Newman states, “I am not going to issue an order in advance, limiting the scope of cross examination. Any objection will matter must be addressed as the evidence is presented and not based on any advance ruling by the court.”
9:34 a.m. EST – Court has resumed. Jim Griffin has a matter to discuss with the court. He states that they are discussing Murdaugh’s right to testify on his own behalf. He is asking for an order excluding the State from cross-examination of Murdaugh on the financial crimes. Creighton Waters tells Judge Newman that rule 611(b) states that any witness may be cross-examined on any matter relevant to any issue in the case, including credibility. Griffin replies that they are asking the court to limit the waiver of his fifth amendment privilege to the murder charges.
8:27 a.m. EST – No doubt!
8:13 a.m. EST – This was tweeted yesterday by one of the reporters who first broke this story last week. I am told this is still a “game-time” decision. I am also told Murdaugh has already been advised against taking the stand by his legal team, but is leaning toward doing it anyway …
8:05 a.m. EST – Social media reaction to the #GunGate drama seems to be drowning out discussion of the key takeaway from yesterday – namely that the state did a very good job debunking the credibility (and conclusions) of the defense analyst.
8:01 a.m. EST – Our full recap of yesterday’s #GunGate drama involving lead defense attorney Dick Harpootlian …
WANNA SOUND OFF?
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The traffic cones in the photo of Murdaugh appear to be just about as old and shoddy as the electronic equipment in the courtroom. Personally I think the courtroom layout and equipment should be a future scandal … to determine if at some point the County received $5 million (plus or minus) for upgrades that mysteriously disappeared into various personal checking accounts.
I hope the State will seize on the fact that Murdaugh said “they” to Ball on the night it happened. It’s a tell. He had planned the crime to make it look that way. No reasonable person would be assuming that in the moment. Even Ball picked up on that. This would help the State as a backup plan in case the jury believes he said “they” in the interrogation video.
Creighton Waters is doing such a great job on cross today. If it were the first day you watched the trial it might be difficult to tell whether these witnesses were called by the defense or the prosecution.
Please go to Paul’s Snapchat video. In it you hear Maggie say, “ EDDIE! He has a bird in his mouth!”
That puts Eddie at the scene. And in the 911 call,it’s been said that there was someone at the scene with Alex.
I’m wondering if Alex and Cousin Eddie were the shooters.
Strongly disagree. Maggie says “Heeyyy, he’s got a ….” She did NOT say Eddie.
Did y’all get cut off or am I missing something? Usually we see a post about it being the end of the day.