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‘Murdaugh Murders’ Trial: Attorney General Stands And Delivers

Alan Wilson shines in ‘Trial of the Century.’

Heading into South Carolina’s ‘Trial of the Century,’ everyone knew the Palmetto State’s independently elected attorney general was a political animal.

But who knew he was such a beast in the courtroom?

With everything on the line in this case – and with his daughter watching from the gallery – attorney general Alan Wilson stood and delivered a masterful performance at a pivotal moment in the double homicide trial of disbarred South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh.

“Just call him the closer,” one attorney who watched Wilson’s work in court told me.

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.

Wilson wasn’t handling just any witness in this case, either. He was responsible for the direct examination of Kenneth Kinsey – the state’s top forensic expert and the final witness called in its rebuttal case against Murdaugh, who stands accused of brutally murdering his wife and son twenty-one months ago. It was up to Kinsey – with Wilson questioning him – to push back against several key points made by multiple defense experts called by Murdaugh’s attorneys.

In short, there was a ton of ground to cover … and considerable pressure to cover it quickly and concisely.

(Click to view)

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson questions Dr. Kenneth Kinsey during Alex Murdaugh’s trial for murder at the Colleton County Courthouse on Tuesday, February 28, 2023. Joshua Boucher/The State/Pool

How did he do?

Inside and outside of the courtroom – and on multiple notoriously fickle social media feeds – reviews of Wilson’s performance were universally positive.

“Who was that prosecutor?” one out-of-state observer asked me outside the courthouse. “They should have had him questioning more witnesses.”

Another out-of-state source ignorant of Wilson’s status as attorney general concurred with that assessment.

“Who was that ringer for the state?” they said. “And where has he been this whole trial?”

Wilson’s performance even drew praise from several of his most vocal critics in the media – and reportedly from Murdaugh’s own attorneys, as well.

Most importantly, the jury seemed to like Wilson – and appeared to be having an easier time following his lines of questioning when compared to other prosecutors (with the notable exception of lead prosecutor Creighton Waters).

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Wilson also incorporated better visual aids in his presentation – including a large poster showing an aerial view of the crime scene.

After walking Kinsey through several key rebuttals of the defense’s case (including its theory that there were two shooters at the scene who both stood between 5-foot-2 and 5-foot-4), Wilson participated in an effective reenactment of the shooting of Paul Murdaugh in a courtroom doorway.

With a twelve-gauge shotgun in his hands, Wilson positioned Kinsey in the doorway – just as Paul Murdaugh would have stood moments before receiving the fatal shotgun blast to his head. From there, he proceeded to twist and turn awkwardly around Kinsey so as to reposition himself directly behind the witness – demonstrating how difficult it would have been for someone to get into the right position (and hold the shotgun at the right angle) to inflict a contact wound to the back of Paul Murdaugh’s head.

The demonstration gave jurors a compelling visual look at the improbability of the defense’s theory of the shooting.

(Click to view)

Dr. Kenneth Kinsey refutes the opinion of a previous witness, saying Maggie and Paul Murdaugh’s murderer could be any height if they crouch during Alex Murdaugh’s trial for murder at the Colleton County Courthouse on Tuesday, February 28, 2023. Joshua Boucher/The State/Pool

Wilson and Kinsey also discussed – in jarring detail – how contact wounds from shotguns obliterate a victim’s facial features.

“You feel as though the forehead and the facial features are no longer there,” Kinsey testified. “They’ve been shredded. The person is just not there, it’s just a mess.”

Pulling up one of the graphic autopsy photos of Paul Murdaugh, Wilson asked Kinsey whether what jurors were seeing was consistent with such a wound.

“No – his face looks pretty normal,” Kinsey said.

At the heart of Wilson’s examination of Kinsey was the dynamic nature of the crime scene – the motion of both victims and the shooter.

“It’s chaotic, it’s crazy,” Wilson said.

“This was a very chaotic crime scene,” Kinsey agreed. “I think everything was moving. I’ve got a moving shooter. I’ve got a moving victim. This is a fluid and dynamic crime scene.”

(Click to view)

Dr. Kenneth Kinsey refutes the opinion of a previous witness, saying the Maggie and Paul Murdaugh’s murderer could be any height if they crouch during Alex Murdaugh’s trial for murder at the Colleton County Courthouse on Tuesday, February 28, 2023. Joshua Boucher/The State/Pool

“You’ve said there’s so much we don’t know,” Wilson asked Kinsey. “Could the shooter have been moving laterally? Could the shooter have been on his knees?”

Kinsey acknowledged both of those were possibilities.

“The defense is relying on math and absolutes,” Kinsey said. “In crime scene investigations, sometimes there are no absolutes.”

According to my sources, Wilson agreed to conduct the direct examination of Kinsey so that lead prosecutor Creighton Waters could remain focused on closing arguments – which could begin on Wednesday. And while Wilson is the head of the agency, he reportedly deferred the decision on his examination of Kinsey to Waters – the man he tapped to lead the Murdaugh prosecution.

Waters clearly made the right call …

Wilson has been exceedingly active in this case from the beginning, sources close to his office have confirmed – assisting with pre-trial preparation and strategy as well as supporting his team of attorneys throughout the proceedings. He arrived in Walterboro, S.C. for the second week of the trial in late January, and has been seated at the prosecution table ever since.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Will Folks on phone
Will Folks (Brett Flashnick)

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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7 comments

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The Colonel March 1, 2023 at 9:37 am

Zero to hero in one rebuttal…

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Sharon Gibson March 1, 2023 at 9:45 am

FITS News coverage is excellent! Always on point. I look forward to reading all of your daily updates. Love, Love Week in Review with Will & Jenn.

Sharon G

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Amelia Price March 1, 2023 at 9:51 am

FITS News coverage has, indeed, been excellent. Their live video analysis during breaks & after court adjourns has been pitch-perfect. Along with Will Folks, Jenn Wood, and Dylan Nolan are naturals in front of the camera.

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Amelia Price March 1, 2023 at 9:47 am

Sure, Wilson’s act was okay with the witness, especially for a politician; however, let’s not forget Wilson had a great witness with Dr. Kenny Kinsey.

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Paul Baker March 1, 2023 at 10:21 am

Anyone notice last witness on cross agreed shooter of Paul would be covered in blood , tissue and possibly skull fragment .also, state expert agreed he could not rule out 2 shooters nor would he say shooter if one was 6;4 or 5;2 . Anyone who can look at demeanor of jury and draw conclusions consistently is one gifted individual I have never seen .

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Wayne Hegamyer March 1, 2023 at 10:37 am

For future CSI technology usage, I hope Dr. Kinsey will adopt and embrace the newer laser technology rather than continuing to be the “pencil and paper” investigator that he described himself as being.

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M. Pappas March 1, 2023 at 11:20 am

Two details I feel the proscution missed bringing up for the jurors to consider:

-When debating the shot angles and shooter height, AG Wilson did a good job with Kinsey explaining that the shooter could have been a range of heights. But after Alex’s admission of driving to the kennels in a golf cart on that fateful June 7 night, and the time spent with Ronnie Crosby implying that having guns on the carts/ATV’s when riding the property was common, I was surprised that information wasn’t tied together and offered for consideration that AM could have been seated on the cart (where it was impied the guns might be) when he shot Paul.

-AM’s motive from financial pressures. The State didn’t seem to push back much on the defense notion that the June 10 hearing to compel was a routine financial request that wouldn’t have bothered AM. He admitted on that day that he had his worked on his statement of net worth and had a hand written one ready for his secretary to type. The missed opening there for the State was that his net worth statement was likely completely fraudulent. On the day he was working on that very statement he was confronted by his firm’s CFO over $792,000 in fees he owed to the firm – certainly that liability wasn’t on the statement. I doubt he also included his ownership of the “Forge” banking account and whatever balance it had, or his many off-record loans from Palmetto State and his partners. In short he was getting ready to enter a document into court record would have been perjurous. On cross examination of AM Waters should have pressed AM to ask if he disclosed any of those ill-gotten assets and liabilities in order to make his statement of net worth truthful, or was is whitewashed and a lie like everything else in his life that he was now faced with submitting to a court.

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