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LIVE FEED – ‘Murdaugh Murders’ Trial: Day Twenty-Six

News and notes from South Carolina’s ‘Trial of the Century.’

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The defense officially rested its case Monday in the double homicide trial of disbarred South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh, who stands accused of brutally murdering his family members as part of a still-unspooling web of crime, corruption and deceit.

And while the case put forward by Murdaugh’s attorneys finished strong, it remains to be seen whether it will create sufficient reasonable doubt among jurors following the resting of the state’s case ten days ago – or the absolute evisceration lead prosecutor Creighton Waters put on Murdaugh when he ill-advisedly took the stand in his own defense.

Most jury watchers believe the twelve Colleton County residents tasked with determining Murdaugh’s fate believe him to be guilty – and will find him as such once the case is in their hands. Others feel the state has not met the threshold in this case – which relies extensively on circumstantial evidence.

When will jurors begin their deliberations? Possibly as soon as this week …

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Prior to that, prosecutors will call anywhere between four and five rebuttal witnesses on Tuesday – seeking to refute key components of the defense’s case. At some point on Wednesday, jurors are expected to take a field trip to “Moselle” – the Murdaugh family’s 1,700-acre hunting property which straddles the Salkehatchie River between Hampton and Colleton counties near Islandton, S.C.

At that location, Murdaugh is accused of killing his wife, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh, and youngest son, 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh on June 7, 2021. He pleaded not guilty to those charges and for the last six weeks has been 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.

The scion of an influential Lowcountry legal dynasty, Murdaugh once led the Palmetto State’s powerful trial lawyers’ lobby. Today, he is at the epicenter of a maze of alleged criminality known as the ‘Murdaugh Murders’ crime and corruption saga.

After the Moselle field trip, jurors are expected to hear closing arguments and receive their instructions for deliberation from S.C. circuit court judge Clifton Newman.

Be sure to follow our live feed below for the latest twists and turns in that saga …

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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 Friday’s poll, 86 percent of respondents believed Murdaugh was guilty of killing his wife compared to roughly seven percent who said he was not guilty and five percent who said they were unsure. Meanwhile, 87 percent believe Murdaugh killed his son compared to seven percent who said he was not guilty and four percent who said they were unsure.

Here are today’s questions …

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QUESTION ONE …

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Based on the information you have now, is Alex Murdaugh guilty or not guilty of the murder of Maggie Murdaugh?

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    QUESTION TWO …

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    Based on the information you have now, is Alex Murdaugh guilty or not guilty of the murder of Paul Murdaugh?

    Thank you for voting
    You have already voted on this poll!
    Please select an option!

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      LIVE FEED …

      5:25 p.m. EST – Court will adjourn until 11:00 a.m. EST tomorrow after the jury visits Moselle. The jury will meet at 9:00 a.m. to go to Moselle.

      5:15 p.m. EST – After meeting with the attorneys, court has resumed. Jim Griffin has moved again for a directed verdict. The jury is brought back in and Judge Newman tells them they have heard all the testimony and tomorrow morning they will be taken by escort to Moselle to view the property. Judge Newman tells the jury he will be there as well. The instructions to the jury is that on the way to and from the crime scene, they are not allowed to discuss the trial with anyone or ask any questions to anyone but Judge Newman. After the jury view of the property, they will return to court for closing arguments, jury instructions and then deliberation. Judge Newman reminds the jury that the scene has changed since June 7, 2021 and that it is a different season.

      4:47 p.m. EST – The State has rested in the rebuttal case. Judge Newman has sent the jury to the jury room for a break. The defense has no comments regarding surrebuttal.

      4:45 p.m. EST – Kinsey tells Attorney General Wilson that the crime scene was not static. It was chaotic and a lot of movement. Wilson asks Kinsey about how much the defense experts were made and he chuckles and says their rates varied, but he recalls one being $350 an hour.

      4:43 p.m. EST – Attorney General Alan Wilson has begun his re-direct of Dr. Kinsey.

      4:37 p.m. EST – Kinsey tells Griffin that the back spatter would have included brain matter, blood and possibly skull fragments. The shooter would absolutely have had blood on them from blowback. Kinsey states the closer the shooter was to the victims, the more blood and other matter that they would have on them.

      4:28 p.m. EST – Kinsey testifies that literature states 8-10% of what’s in front of the gun comes back as back spatter.

      4:17 p.m. EST – Dr. Kinsey tells Griffin that his opinion is that the shot that killed Paul entered into his shoulder, traveled through the bottom of jaw and exited through the head.

      4:10 p.m. EST – Dr. Kinsey testifies that he doesn’t disagree with what Mike Sutton – expert for the defense -attempted, just with the degree of certainty at which Sutton claimed the shooter couldn’t have been 6 feet and 4 inches tall.

      4:06 p.m. EST – Court has resumed. The jury is being brought back in.

      3:47 p.m. EST – Judge Newman has sent the jury to the jury room for a 15-minute break.

      3:33 p.m. EST – Dr. Kinsey tells Griffin that he spoke with Dr. Riemer, but he did not look through her entire report

      3:30 p.m. EST – Jim Griffin has begun cross examination of Dr. Kinsey.

      3:26 p.m. EST – Attorney General Wilson asks Kinsey regarding John Marvin Murdaugh’s testimony regarding the state of the crime scene. Kinsey testified that it is not the job of law enforcement to clean a crime scene, but that there are companies who come in and help. These companies are often funded by victim assistance funds. Kinsey testifies he cannot exclude a 6’4″ shooter and he cannot include or exclude the possibility of two shooters.

      3:21 p.m. EST – Kinsey explains there is no defects in the bottom of the door frame or on the floor indicating the shot was at a downward trajectory. He states he believes it is impossible for defects to be found at the top of the doorframe if the shooter had shot downward. Griffin objects when Attorney General Wilson begins getting into ballistic testimony. The objection is overruled.

      3:14 p.m. EST – Dr. Kinsey is now testifying regarding Tim Palmbach’s testimony yesterday. Attorney General Wilson has asked the court to open a door for demonstration and pulls the Benelli Super Black Eagle shotgun out of evidence. The door is a couple inches wider than the feed room door. After asking permission, Wilson points the weapon at Kinsey. Kinsey states that both defense and prosecution experts state that Paul stood there after being shot, but the defense theory that Paul stumbled forward and the shooter when behind him and shot him from behind.

      3:08 p.m. EST – Kinsey states he has seen a dozens of contact wounds to the back of the head with a shotgun including one person who committed suicide in front of him. He states that the kind way to put it is that the facial features remain, but are shredded. He states from the teeth up, the person’s face would be a mess.

      3:03 p.m. EST – Kinsey states that Sutton ran a string to the defect in the pine tree to determine trajectory. Kinsey says with a shotgun shell, the primer of a cartridge is ignited and the pellets spread in a cone. He states the more the distance, the greater the spread. Kinsey explains you can’t use one pellet defect to determine the trajectory and you cannot exclude someone who is 6’4″ like Murdaugh.

      2:58 p.m. EST – Kinsey is demonstrating for the jury how the height of the shooter can vary. He is explaining that distance, height, and weapon position could affect the angle trajectory. He describes the crime scene as very fluid stating the shooter as well as Maggie and Paul were likely all moving.

      2:53 p.m. EST – Kinsey states Sutton determined the height of the shooter based on a laser line. He testifies the yellow placards on the photos of the scene designate the location of the cartridge casings.

      2:48 p.m. EST – Kinsey is confident of the direction of the bullet, but not the angle in the defect of the cardboard on the side of the quail pen. He states he is much more confident of the angle of the bullet in the side of the dog house as it is wood.

      2:42 p.m. EST – Dr. Kinsey steps down from the witness stand to demonstrate angle trajectory through cardboard using a dowel rod. Kinsey explains that a defect in the barrel of the rifle could have caused a deviation in the trajectory of the bullet.

      2:40 p.m. EST – Griffin objects to the Attorney General leading the witness. Judge Newman asks the AG not to lead the witness. This is weird to watch.

      2:35 p.m. EST – AG Wilson asks Kinsey about the testimony of defense expert, Mike Sutton. Kinsey states that Sutton said the shooter was 5’2″ to 5’4″ tall. He testifies that Sutton’s intentions were good but his methods were flawed.

      South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson speaks with a colleague during day 25 of the double murder trial of Alex Murdaugh at the Colleton County Courthouse on Monday, February 27, 2023. Jeff Blake/The State/Pool

      2:31 p.m. EST – The State calls Dr. Kenneth Kinsey. Attorney General Alan Wilson is conducting the direct examination. Dr. Kinsey is going through his qualifications.

      2:26 p.m. EST – Court has resumed. The jury is being brought into court.

      12:53 p.m. EST – Judge Newman has called for a lunch break until 2:15 p.m.

      12:50 p.m. EST – Waters is on re-direct. Ball states he knew the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office was involved because one of the officers called him to ask about Paul’s truck.

      12:48 p.m. EST – Ball states the statement issued by Colleton County Sheriff’s Office that there was no immediate danger to the community right after the murders did concern him. The sheriff explained they had no knowledge that anyone else was in harm’s way. He states he still had questions after that conversation.

      12:42 p.m. EST – Ball is not sure how much pressure the hogs were under on the Moselle property and a long discussion about hogs has ensued. The only time he travels around without a gun is when he forgets it.

      12:36 p.m. EST – Ball testifies that he spoke with Murdaugh when he was en route to Atlanta. Murdaugh called him from John Marvin’s phone. Ball states since Labor Day of 2021, he has not spoken with Murdaugh. Ball testifies that Murdaugh never stated distrust of SLED in relation to the criminal charges against Paul only that he believed the charges were defensible.

      12:34 p.m. EST – Ball testifies that the way a plaintiff’s practice works, you work on your own cases unless you are working with someone else. He told him a lot of things that weren’t truthful. No further questions from the State. Jim Griffin has begun cross examination.

      Mark Ball, Hampton trial attorney and former law partner of Murdaugh’s testifies during the Alex Murdaugh trial at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, Tuesday, March. 28, 2023. Andrew J. Whitaker/The Post and Courier/Pool

      12:32 p.m. EST – Ball reiterates his testimony that Murdaugh told him that prior to calling 9-1-1 that he checked Maggie and then Paul. The story changed in subsequent conversations that he checked Paul first.

      12:31 p.m. EST – Ball testifies that it is possible to shoot hogs during the day. He states the .300 Blackouts were purchased for hog hunting.

      12:28 p.m. EST – The State calls Mark Ball to the stand. Ball states Murdaugh never expressed his distrust of SLED or law enforcement. Ball cannot recall how long ago the blue lights were installed in Murdaugh’s vehicle, but it wasn’t in the vehicle that was seized by law enforcement.

      12:26 p.m. EST – Barber asks McManigal if he knows how many times he needs to run an experiment for it to be statistically reliable. McManigal states more than ten.

      12:24 p.m. EST – Re-direct has begun and McManigal testifies he performed multiple tests on the device. The testing he conducted was focused on aggressive throwing of the iPhone.

      12:17 p.m. EST – McManigal tells Barber it did not occur to him to record his experiments with the iPhone. He testifies he has never been an engineer. Barber moves to strike his expert opinion. Objection is overruled.

      12:14 p.m. EST – Phil Barber is questioning McManigal for the defense. McManigal testifies that he conducted these experiments on the phone on Friday and Saturday. He did not record the results of his experiment.

      12:13 p.m. EST – McManigal states if a phone is thrown the screen does not usually turn on. 9 out of 10 times when the phone was tossed like a frisbee, the screen would not turn on.

      12:08 p.m. EST – McManigal is testifying regarding the “raise to wake” function on an iPhone. He agrees with previous testimony that if a screen is off, an iPhone will not record an orientation change. The raise to wake function is activated by motion. If a phone is being picked up aggressively, the screen does not turn on as a battery protection feature. He conducted testing on the same phone Maggie owned. The results were not consistent.

      12:05 p.m. EST – The State calls Paul McManigal to the stand. McManigal was tasked with redacting Murdaugh’s cell phone records to protect attorney-client privilege. Click here to view the live feed containing details of McManigal’s prior testimony.

      12:01 p.m. EST – Smalls is not aware of Murdaugh trying any cases without his father. Smalls was not aware that Murdaugh was issued a badge for his role as assistant solicitor. Smalls is not sure if Anthony Russell gave Murdaugh permission. Anthony Russell is the current Sheriff of Hampton County. No further questions.

      11:56 a.m. EST – Dr. Riemer has left the stand. The State calls T.C. Smalls to the stand. Smalls is the former Sheriff of Hampton County. Smalls states he never had a conversation with Murdaugh about installing blue lights in his vehicle. Murdaugh never approached him about threats being received as a result of the boat crash case. No more questions from the State. Jim Griffin has begun cross examination for the defense.

      11:45 a.m. EST – Dr. Riemer states she always questions herself during an autopsy, but the totality of the findings showed her it was an exit wound. If this was a contact shotgun entrance wound, the damage to the head would have been more significant. If other people disagree with her opinion, that is fine, but it doesn’t change her determination.

      11:30 a.m. EST – Harpootlian asks how many pellets are in a 12-gauge shotgun shell. Dr. Riemer replies that she does not know as she is not an expert in ballistics. She did not count the pellets in the body as she doesn’t collect them all. They don’t know how many were in the brain because she did not x-ray the brain. She tells Harpootlian she can see she was correct that the entrance wound is to the chest.

      11:26 a.m. EST – Dr. Riemer states she did not take x-rays of the brain and says that hindsight is 20/20. She wishes she had, but did not because it was not necessary to support her conclusion. Harpootlian asks how many cases Dr. Riemer has been involved in where the brain exploded outside of the head. She states very few and clarifies that usually contact shotgun wounds are suicide.

      11:18 a.m. EST – Court has resumed. Harpootlian is continuing his cross of Dr. Ellen Riemer and begins by asking about the packing material on the skin. She states she did not note that in her autopsy report and that it was just a general observation. It reinforces her opinion that it was an entrance wound.

      10:58 a.m. EST – Judge Newman has called for a 10-minute break.

      10:55 a.m. EST – Dr. Riemer states there would have been a lot more expansion in the wound in Paul’s shoulder if it had been a contact wound.

      10:51 a.m. EST – Harpootlian asks if the series of shots in the book is depicting a shotgun wound. Dr. Riemer replies that they are, but it’s a theoretical depiction. She states this is a book showing a series of steps after the shotgun was fired, but has nothing to do what she found on Paul’s body. Harpootlian’s aggressive questioning of Dr. Riemer is difficult to watch.

      10:47 a.m. EST – Harpootlian asks Dr. Riemer if she took pictures of the autopsies. She replies yes and states now she wishes she had taken more photos. Dr. Riemer states a diagram or notes will not provide all the details from the autopsy. Dr. Riemer states she does not believe she provided her notes to the State, but counters that they are not important and not for public view. The notes are not a statement of her conclusion, but a tool she uses as she conducts the autopsies.

      10:46 a.m. EST – Waters asks Dr. Riemer if there is any way the wound to the top of Paul’s head could have been a contact wound in her expert opinion. Dr Riemer replies no. She states she disagrees with the conclusion of the defense expert. The State has completed direct.

      10:39 a.m. EST – Dr. Riemer testifies there is no way Paul Murdaugh’s wounds were consistent with a contact shotgun wound. She states that shaving his head was not necessary as she know there was no soot as the wound to Paul’s head was not a contact shotgun wound.

      10:36 a.m. EST – Dr. Riemer states that it’s hard to see the wounds in a 2-dimensional photo and that’s why it would have been important for the expert hired by the defense to review her report. Regarding Paul Murdaugh’s wound, she states his face was basically intact and his eyes were still in his head. Paul would not have had face left if it the wound to his head was a contact shotgun wound.

      10:29 a.m. EST – Waters asks Dr. Riemer to testify regarding the reliability of skin tags in terms of the trajectory of gunshot wounds. She states they are not overly reliable especially when it relates to soft tissue. She states the pathologist hired by the defense is incorrect regarding the wounds to Maggie Murdaugh because the entrance defect on the left side of the face could only happen from an entrance wound.

      10:27 a.m. EST – The State calls Dr. Ellen Riemer to the stand. Dr Riemer states she conducted autopsies on Paul and Maggie Murdaugh at the request of the Colleton County coroner.

      10:24 a.m. EST – Waters is on re-direct. He asks Crosby what his concern was with Harpootlian’s questioning. Crosby states he took an oath to tell the truth. As attorneys, they are bound by rules of professional conduct and ethical rules. He took issue with Harpootlian impugning his testimony. He testifies that Paul always had a .300 Blackout with him, but not sure if that’s what he used to shoot hogs.

      10:21 a.m. EST – Harpootlian asks how much money Murdaugh stole from Boulware. Crosby says he stole $70,000 from him in 2017 and an additional $270,000 after Boulware passed away.

      10:19 a.m. EST – Crosby states he doesn’t have any feelings about the money Murdaugh stole because you can’t carry around anger. Harpootlian says he just seemed angry. Crosby said he went to the scene of the murders to support his law partner. He thought he knew who Murdaugh was, but he did not. Crosby states he was not aware Murdaugh went to rehab in 2017. He was not aware Murdaugh had a drug problem and says if he would have known, he would have tried to help him. Crosby states no one else in the firm was as theatric as Murdaugh.

      10:13 a.m. EST – Crosby states his practice is primarily personal injury and he handles a lot of catastrophic injuries. Crosby agrees that plaintiffs are traumatized. Crosby testifies he has to pay out of pocket for the money Murdaugh stole. He states they’ve had to borrow millions. He states if Harpootlian is implying he is testifying this way because he is angry at Murdaugh, he would be highly offended. Crosby says he has experienced anger, but Harpootlian is dead wrong if he thinks that is why he is testifying.

      10:11 a.m. EST – Harpootlian asks if Crosby has ever ridden around Moselle looking at the property and Crosby says he does not recall riding around the property for that purpose.

      10:08 a.m. EST – Harpootlian asks if Crosby ever rode around Moselle with Murdaugh. Crosby says yes because they went hunting on the property. Crosby says they wouldn’t typically carry a rifle for hogs while hunting doves because the hogs typically would not come out while they were hunting.

      10:08 a.m. EST – Crosby testifies that Murdaugh could get very theatrical in court. Waters has no further questions.

      10:06 a.m. EST – Waters admits a photo of SLED agent David Williams into evidence over objection stating David Williams does not look like David Owen.

      10:00 a.m. EST – Waters asks Crosby if he ever had a conversation with Murdaugh about Barrett Boulware needing money. Crosby states that he did in June of 2018. Harpootlian objects. Judge Newman overrules. Crosby states in June of 2018 he received a call from Boulware’s son-in-law asking for help financially because Boulware was in the Mayo Clinic being treated for colon cancer. Crosby says that Boulware’s wife needed money to stay in a hotel near the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. Murdaugh acknowledge that it was good what Crosby was doing for Boulware because he was not in good shape financially. Around the same time, a $70,000 insurance check came into the firm for Boulware that Murdaugh took.

      9:57 a.m. EST – Crosby says he has killed hundreds of hogs. He states they are such a nuisance that the general rule is you do not ride around the property without a rifle in case you do see a hog. Crosby states his understanding was that Murdaugh stated he checked Maggie and Paul before calling 9-1-1 and that is what Murdaugh told him. Crosby testifies that the first time he heard Murdaugh was at the kennels on June 7, 2021 was when Murdaugh testified.

      9:55 a.m. EST – Waters asks if Crosby ever rode around the property with Paul Murdaugh and if so, what they carried with them. Harpootlian objects. Waters states he will give more context prior to asking and tries again. Harpootlian continues to object and is overruled. Crosby states if you have hogs on your property, you generally carry a rifle with you as you’re riding around the property in case you encounter a hog. Harpootlian objects as Crosby is not an expert. Judge Newman overrules the objection. Crosby laughs and says he would disagree that he is not an expert regarding hogs. The courtroom laughs.

      9:51 a.m. EST – The jury is being brought into the courtroom. The State calls Ronnie Crosby to the stand.

      Ronnie Crosby, Hampton attorney, gives his testimony in the double murder trial of Alex Murdaugh at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. Andrew J. Whitaker/The Post and Courier/Pool

      9:42 a.m. EST – Court has resumed. Dick Harpootlian is addressing Judge Newman regarding the rebuttal witnesses that the State plans to call. He states the State plans to call seven rebuttal witnesses including Dr. Ellen Riemer and Kenneth Kinsey. He tells Judge Newman that most of these witnesses have been heard before and says the case needs to end at some point. He asks the court to consider and proffer what they are going to put in front of the jury. Judge Newman tells Harpootlian that the State cannot re-try the entire case, but the State has the right to reply to the defense’s witnesses. Judge Newman states he is surprised to hear the number of response witnesses the State plans to call, but he cannot rule in advance what is appropriate or not.

      8:10 a.m. EST – Another big question I have regarding the rebuttal case is this: Will prosecutors introduce jurors to the concept of the ‘family annihilator,’ a criminal profile which many believe is a match for Alex Murdaugh. Creighton Waters referenced this profile during his cross-examination of Murdaugh – asking him directly whether he had heard of it – and then whether he believed he was a family annihilator. Will we see this enter the rebuttal case today … (Will Folks).

      8:00 a.m. EST – As I have noted on several occasions in our prior coverage, prosecutors pulled a major punch in making their case – and in cross-examining Alex Murdaugh last week. I’m referring, of course, to the defense’s core narrative of Murdaugh as being a devoted husband. Will they shred this narrative during their rebuttal case? (Will Folks).

      7:56 a.m. EST – Yesterday as I was leaving the courtroom, lead prosecutor Creighton Waters was huddled with multiple attorneys from the Parker law firm. I asked my prosecutorial sources what this was about but did not get a definitive reply – only that there was a meeting amongst the state’s lawyers last night regarding the conversation. Will keep working my sources today in the hopes of figuring out what was being discussed … (Will Folks).

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      3 comments

      Courtney Walters Top fan February 28, 2023 at 8:26 am

      I hope they push the family annihilator – he is. Been reading up on it and he check marks each box of the definition.

      Reply
      stephen henry Top fan February 28, 2023 at 8:56 am

      Justice has very little chance of prevailing if even ONE juror bought into brother’s histrionic, phony testimony. It is beyond my comprehension that Will Folks wrote a laudatory column about John Marvin’s performance. Did anyone even mention that John Marvin was so distraught and so committed to finding “killers” that he went to Las Vegas looking for them. What a crock. Very disappointed in FITS News.

      Reply
      Avatar photo
      The Colonel Top fan February 28, 2023 at 12:07 pm

      11:30 a.m. EST – Harpootlian asks how many pellets are in a 12-gauge shotgun shell. Dr. Riemer replies that she does not know as she is not an expert in ballistics.

      And Pooty Poot asks again and restates and asks again and the witness is consistent in her answers and Pooty Poot continues to piss off the jury – tell me again how great an attorney this doddering old fool is?

      Reply

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