By: Andrea Cipriano, MAFP
People across the country were glued to their TVs watching the downfall of this southern dynasty. Now, will there be a second trial?
2023 — Update
Lawyers for convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh filed a motion seeking a new trial, alleging they had uncovered evidence of jury tampering.
Murdaugh’s lawyers say that Rebecca Hill, the Colleton County clerk of court “tampered with the jury” by advising them not to believe Alex’s testimony, and that the jurors should get the deliberation over with.
Hill’s self-published book, “Behind the Doors of Justice: The Murdaugh Murders” is under scrutiny, specifically as the Murdaugh defense team claims Hill wanted to secure financial gain for herself — and that a hung jury wouldn’t lead to the outcome she needed for her book to succeed.
Attorney Richard “Dick” Harpootlian said their team collected sworn testimony from two jurors that said Hill had “improper, private communications” with some of the jurors outside of the courtroom, including a warning to not be “fooled” by Alex’s testimony in his own defense.
The two jurors have retained their own lawyers.
Experts say this is “extremely serious” and, if true, Murdaugh could — and should — be granted a new trial. Holding an evidentiary hearing would be the next step in this process.
In other news, Murdaugh pleaded guilty on November 17, 2023 to multiple financial crimes — including money laundering.
The plea deal outlined states that Murdaugh will be sentenced to an additional 27 years in prison, which would keep him behind bars even if he were able to get his murder conviction tossed.
Alex Murdaugh’s six-week double murder trial was hallmarked by tears, emotional testimony, and viral moments. If you weren’t able to catch every minute of the court proceedings, don’t sweat it — here are the top 10 moments from the Murdaugh Murders trial.
But first, some quick background…
Robert Alexander Murdaugh, the disgraced South Carolina legal tycoon, was accused of killing his wife, Margaret “Maggie” Murdaugh, 52, and son, Paul Murdaugh, 22, on June 7, 2021. The pair were found shot to death on the 1,770 acre Moselle Road property in Islandton, South Carolina. Maggie was shot five times in the back with a rife, while Paul was shot with two close-range shotgun blasts to his chest and back of his head. Both were found near their dog kennels.
Alex was found guilty of his family’s murders and two counts of weapons possession on March 3, 2023.
At the time of their murders, Paul was awaiting trial in connection to a 2019 boat crash that left Mallory Beach, a 19-year-old friend, dead.
This trial has gripped the nation like nothing we’ve seen in a long time. Even as the two sides continue to argue, countless documentaries have been released by massive streaming platforms like Netflix, HBO, NBC, and Investigation Discovery.
Now, let’s examine the 10 shocking and jaw-dropping moments from this trial. We’ve saved the most O-M-G moment for last.
The trial was halted in dramatic fashion on Wednesday, February 8th, after a bomb threat was called in to the South Carolina courthouse. According to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), the threat was called in by a man who spoke to courthouse staff. The staff member then alerted officials.
The trial was paused for over two and a half hours while local sheriff’s deputies and SLED officers searched the building. They didn’t find any evidence of a bomb.
The caller has been identified, and an investigation is ongoing.
The first day of Alex’s testimony happened to land exactly on the four-year anniversary of the fatal boat crash involving Paul Murdaugh.
On Feb. 23, 2019, Paul, then 19, was driving a boat with five others on board when it crashed near Parris Island, South Carolina, killing 19-year-old Mallory Beach.
Prosecutors have disputed the defense’s theory that Mallory’s death would have been a motive for someone else to kill Paul and Maggie.
The request for a “jury view” — when a jury goes to the scene of a crime — is rare, but not unheard of.
In the Murdaugh case, the defense attorney requested the field trip to encompass both the area near the dog kennels, where the murders occurred, as well as the house itself.
The defense also believes the jury would benefit from seeing the area, including the location of the quail pens, the relative location of the dog house, “how small the feed room is,” and the distance between where Maggie and Paul Murdaugh’s bodies were found.
John Marvin, Alex’s younger brother, testified that he did the unthinkable when he cleaned up Paul Murdaugh’s remains, vowing to “find out who did this.”
John added that it was “the hardest thing” he had ever done. “I saw blood, I saw brains, I saw pieces of skull, I saw tissue…And when I say brains it could just be tissue. I don’t know what I saw, it was just terrible.”
Alex’s brother was the defense team’s final witness before it rested its case.
Alex had such a “cozy” relationship with local law enforcement in Lowcountry, South Carolina that officers reportedly allowed him to put blue lights in his car and gave him a badge to carry around in case he “needed a favor.”
From the witness stand during the 5th week of the trial, Alex admitted he sometimes made use of the “warming effect” the badge had on police, leaving it on his vehicle’s dashboard or in the cupholder — anywhere an officer could see it if he was pulled over.
“Did I hang it out of my pocket when I wanted an advantage?” Alex said with a slight smile. “I may have.”
Prosecutor Creighton Waters asks Alex to account for hundreds of steps during a 4-minute window on the night of the murders.
The data shows Alex taking more than 70 steps a minute for about four minutes, well over the pace he had walked any other time that evening. Exactly where he was walking wasn’t captured.
When specifically asked about the total 283 steps at a pivotal time around the murders, Alex simply can’t explain what he was doing.
Months after the murders, investigators recovered a 50-second unsent video of Cash, one of the dogs at the kennel, from Paul’s cellphone, which was recorded at 8:44:49 p.m.
Paul was recording the video of the dog’s tail to send to a friend who was concerned about a previous health issue with the dog, but the video would prove to be more important than that — it places Alex at the crime scene minutes before Paul and Maggie would be killed.
When the video was revealed to the jury in February, gasps could be heard in the courtroom. After the footage was released to the public, audio experts and people who know the defendant say the voice is “positively” Alex.
A blood spatter expert and crime scene reconstructionist, Timothy Palmbach, took the stand during the last week of the trial and offered crucial testimony related to the murders of Maggie and Paul.
Timothy testified that his analysis pointed to the likelihood that two shooters killed the disgraced lawyer’s wife and son.
The idea of two shooters lingered over the trial, mainly because we know two different weapons were used in the deadly murders, and no evidence has been presented suggesting either victim tried to defend themselves. Tim was the first witness to suggest the two-killer theory in testimony.
In a graphic demonstration in the courtroom during the last week of the trial, Dr. Kenny Kinsey, an Orangeburg County sheriff’s deputy and crime scene expert, and South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson acted out the defense’s version of how Paul was murdered – with the killer shooting him in the back of the head at point-blank range.
The main point of the dramatic demonstration was to tear apart testimony from a defense witness who claimed the shooter was 5’2”, noting Alex stands at 6’4”.
In a bombshell drop during his first day giving testimony, Alex Murdaugh admitted to lying about being at the kennels before his wife and son were killed.
“Mr. Murdaugh, is that you on the kennel video at 8:44 p.m. on June 7, the night Maggie and Paul were murdered?” defense attorney Jim Griffin asked.
“It is,” Alex admitted, conceding he lied to investigators from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division in at least three separate interviews.
“I did lie to them,” he continued, blaming his addiction to opiate painkillers. “I wasn’t thinking clearly. I don’t think I was capable of reason, and I lied about being down there, and I’m so sorry that I did.”
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