A palette of human emotions coming and going from his face, Alex Murdaugh has sat at the defense table for 20 days, multiple members of his grieving and troubled family sitting behind him – but perhaps not in support.
At times, Murdaugh, once a prominent attorney from a family chock full of lawyers and public prosecutors, appears angry, at other times he sneers at the prosecution.
His wife’s pancreas, kidney, and other organs were annihilated by 300 Blackout rounds designed to take down wild boar. His son’s brain landed at the victim’s feet. When the testimony gets graphic, he rocks, hangs his head and weeps.
Yet at other times, Murdaugh, files in hand, strategizes like the lawyer of old, then laughs with his defense team and appears jovial, as if he has forgotten that he is accused of the unthinkable if your surname is Murdaugh, a family known to rally around each other in times of danger.
Alex is too facing scores of financial charges, and his bloodline has been accused of stealing but acquitted in the past – namely his grandfather, Randolph “Buster” Jr. – but no one in this tight-night clan has ever been charged with harming one of their own – until now.
Courtroom analysis: Here are some potential strategies for Alex Murdaugh’s defense team in the double murder trial
The State, after throwing 59 witnesses and roughly 400 exhibits of circumstantial evidence at Murduagh, formally rested its case Friday. Some of this evidence has been powerful, some emotional, some questionable and some perhaps downright pointless or harmful to their case. So far the State has arguably proven that Murdaugh is a thief, a liar, and has a drug problem, to which the defense does not object, but have they proven he is a murderer?
What evidence will have an impact on the Colleton County jury, and will it stick? What is the State’s most powerful evidence in the murder case?
This month-long legal battle will continue Tuesday, with a week of testimony from the defense, followed by rebuttals, closing arguments and jury deliberation the following week. Meanwhile, the nation is watching on almost every major media outlet in the US and some abroad.
Here is a review of the past four weeks:
Alex Murdaugh was allegedly at the crime scene
Despite statements he gave to 911 and police, claiming he was not at the crime scene when his family was killed, evidence proves the contrary. The State has played a cell phone video taken by his dead son at 8:44 pm that multiple witnesses say includes his voice.
The State, using cell phone data from both victims, believes that they were killed between 8:50 and 9:06 pm – when Murdaugh cranked his 2021 Chevy Suburban and left the Moselle estate.
A Murdaugh “family weapon” and matching ammunition
Firearms and ballistics experts have testified that the fired 300 Blackout rounds found near Maggie’s body were cycled through the same rifle that fired rounds at the family’s home and shooting range – meaning she was killed with a “family weapon.” The spent rifle cartridges, as well as the 12 gauge shotgun shells found near Paul’s body, were also the same type and manufacturer brand as those found in the Murdaugh home and outbuildings.
Murdaugh claims that his son’s rifle was lost or stolen around Christmas 2020, but a witness recalled shooting it with Paul just three months prior to the killings. A 12 gauge family shotgun is also reportedly lost or stolen.
Alex Murdaugh may have lured Maggie and Paul Murdaugh to their deaths
Maggie Murdaugh wanted to spend that Monday night at her favorite place in the world, their Edisto beach house, which, as a stay-at-home wife to a successful lawyer, she was devoted to remodeling and redecorating at the time. But Alex Murdaugh wanted her to come home – reportedly to visit his ailing parents – and he asked Paul to come home as well as to help work the farm, testified a family member.
Was it to lure them to their deaths? The State thinks so. Maggie never made it to Almeda.
FBI-driven vehicle, Murdaugh cell data reveals high-speed dash to create alibi
After leaving the scene of the crime, Murdaugh drove at speeds reaching roughly 80 mph to his parents’ Almeda home outside Varnville, stayed 20 minutes, then dashed back.
His phone, which had registered no activity for a couple of hours before leaving, recorded multiple phone calls while he drove. The State claims he was manufacturing evidence of an alibi.
Two witnesses said Alex Murdaugh coached them to lie to the police
Two witnesses, both Murdaugh family employees, testified that Murdaugh appeared to be coaching them on what to say if questioned by the police.
Mushelle “Shelley” Smith, stated that Murdaugh told her to say he was at Almeda the night of the killings for 30 or 40 minutes. He previously told police he was there 45 minutes to an hour. Vehicle data from General Motors and OnStar pins it at 20 minutes.
Blanca Simpson-Turrbiate said Murdaugh advised her, if questioned, to tell them he had been wearing the same clothes all day. Since he was found with no blood or biological matter on him, police think he changed clothes and cleaned up after the killings.
Based on evidence, Alex Murdaugh told numerous lies
Based on evidence, there are numerous inconsistencies in several statements made to 911 and police – from saying he rolled the victims’ bodies over to check for a pulse, to his alibi, the timing of other events, and more.
Alex Murdaugh was confronted for stealing on the day of the murders
A “perfect storm” of financial crimes and lawsuits was bearing down on Murdaugh in the general time period of the murders, but he was directly confronted that morning by a law firm employee and asked if he had stolen money. In the days after the killings, the State says, Murdaugh borrowed money to replace stolen funds.
What questionable evidence has been presented against Alex Murdaugh?
When talking about Paul, there is a question about whether Murdaugh said “They did him so bad” or “I did him so bad” during an interview with SLED. A SLED agent heard one thing, the defense another.
The controversial blue rain coat that was found in Almeda is covered with GSR, but no DNA or blood, and the only thing tying it directly to Murdaugh is one often inconsistent and nervously inarticulate witness.
DNA evidence may be mostly useless – at a family’s home, everyone’s DNA can be found everywhere.
The small levels of GSR found on Murdaugh and other items are consistent with Murdaugh retrieving a family shotgun for protection.
Murdaugh’s clothing: despite heavy testing, it was revealed possible blood spatter on his shirt was not human blood.
Crime scene preservation: the defense has criticized law enforcement for not properly securing the Moselle crime scene, adequately searching for other possible suspects, and failing to search Almeda until September 2021.
There are no key fingerprints, footprints, or tire marks in this case – and no positively identified murder weapons.
Some pieces of evidence appear to be insignificant or irrelevant, such as the water found on the ground near the crime scene, and a Gucci receipt found in the trash can. The State also took into evidence multiple weapons that were clearly not the murder weapons.
This article originally appeared on Greenville News: Alex Murdaugh murder trial: State evidence likely to impact jury