What the defense hopes they’ve accomplished so far
Right off the bat we see the defense team trying to get out ahead of all the worst evidence for Murdaugh: the lies and inconsistencies in his story.
The defense team knows their greatest weakness is that nearly a dozen different witnesses have identified Murdaugh’s voice at the crime scene just minutes before the killings happened, so he had no choice but to admit he lied.
But watch for cross-examination to pounce on the fact that he’s “not positive” what he did after he left the crime scene.
Defense asks Murdaugh to explain searches, texts and calls he made after family’s death
Murdaugh said that Google searches and FaceTime calls on his phone in the immediate aftermath of his wife’s and son’s deaths were accidental. He also denied checking an unrelated group text.
“I can promise you, I wasn’t reading any text messages,” he said.
He was asked why he searched on his phone for Whaley’s Restaurant and Bar at Edisto, a local seafood restaurant in South Carolina, while his son and wife were dead on the ground.
Murdaugh said it was a restaurant his family visited regularly, and it was an accidental search as he frantically attempted to call family and friends about the murders. He said he “wasn’t doing any Google searches” at that point.
“Obviously, they’re unintentional,” he said. I mean, I’m doing something with my phone trying to call people, but I’m not trying to call those people, I’m not doing a Google search for any Whaley’s Restaurant and I’m certainly not reading any texts.”
Court recessed for ten minutes
Court proceedings will resume at approximately 12:35 p.m. ET.
Asked why he got a gun after discovering bodies, Murdaugh unable to answer
Defense attorneys asked Alex Murdaugh why he decided to get a gun after he discovered the bodies of his wife and son, but the South Carolina attorney was unable to answer.
“I don’t know,” he said, as he once again grew emotional. In the audio of the 911 call, Murdaugh can be heard saying that he plans to return to the house to grab a gun.
“I know you’re upset Mr Murdaugh,” the 911 operator said in response, “but I don’t want you to get a gun and have a gun out whenever my officers get there, okay?”
Murdaugh returned to his home and claims to have picked up a 12-gauge shotgun. He then loaded it with 16-gauge shells, which is an error he said he would never normally make as a lifelong hunter.
“That’s not a mistake I would have made under any circumstances other than that night,” he testified.
‘I should have known,’ Murdaugh says in 911 call after finding wife and son murdered
A recording of the 911 call that Murdaugh made after finding the bodies of Margaret and Paul was played for the jury, in it he is heard saying, “I should have known.”
Murdaugh clarified that he was referring to his son Paul’s compromised safety amid death threats he’d received.
His son Paul received multiple “vile” threats on social media that the family did not take seriously, according to Murdaugh’s testimony.
“We disregarded it because it was so over the top,” he said.
‘My boy’s laying facedown’: Murdaugh wails as he describes his son’s dead body
Murdaugh began to cry again when he attempted to describe his son’s dead body, which he claims to have discovered after checking whether his wife Margaret and Paul were still at the family’s dog kennels.
At first, all he could say was “Paul was so— he was so bad.” He then said that he attempted to check Paul Murdaugh’s pulse and turn him over.
“I don’t know why I tried to turn him,” he said, as he continued to sob. “My boy’s laying facedown. He’s done the way he’s done. His head was the way his head was. I could see his brain laying on the sidewalk. I didn’t know what to do.”
Murdaugh said he grabbed his son’s belt loop to try to turn him over. When he did, Paul’s phone fell out of his pocket and Murdaugh put it back on his son’s body.
When asked to describe murder scene, Murdaugh breaks down
When Murdaugh was asked what he saw when he drove down to the dog kennels, where his wife and son were found dead, he choked up and struggled to describe the murder scene.
“So bad,” he said between sobs.
The South Carolina lawyer wept uncontrollably to the point that saliva dripped from his mouth. After pausing, he asked for a bottle of water and took a long gulp before beginning to answer questions again.
Murdaugh said he did not dispose of a murder weapon or bloody clothes
After leaving his parents’ home in Almeda, Murdaugh said, he stopped for approximately one minute in the driveway.
The defense asked if he was disposing of a murder weapon or bloody clothes in this period.
Murdaugh testified that he was retrieving his phone, which had fallen in the cracks of his vehicle.
The state’s biggest hurdle so far has been a lack of direct evidence, such as witnesses or a murder weapon that could prove Murdaugh’s culpability.
An alibi in question
Murdaugh said that on the day of the murders, his mother who has Alzheimer’s disease was crying a lot and fussy.
“Your mom’s agitated. You need to check on her,” he recalled Barbara Ann Mixon, the housekeeper for his parents, telling him.
Murdaugh’s testimony corroborates what Mixon said on the stand yesterday, about asking Murdaugh to visit his mother on the afternoon of June 7, 2021.
Murdaugh testified that he did spend time with his mother before driving straight to Moselle where, he said, he came across the bodies of Paul and Margaret.
The prosecution has questioned throughout the trial whether Murdaugh went to visit his parents’ home in Almeda to fabricate an alibi.
‘Mags’ and ‘Paul Paul’: Murdaugh uses nicknames for his dead wife and son in testimony
As Murdaugh testified about the moments leading up to his wife and son’s deaths, he continued to refer to them using his nicknames for them.
Murdaugh often referred to his wife, Margaret, as “Maggie” or “Mags” and his son Paul as “Paul Paul” — though there is some confusion over whether Murdaugh is saying “Paul Paul” or “Paw Paw.”
“I called him Paul Paul and Paul Terry, Mags called him Paul Paul, [my son Buster] called him Paul Paul,” Murdaugh said. “A lot of people call him Paul Paul.”
Murdaugh addresses clothes he was wearing on the day of murders
Murdaugh testified that he took a shower the day of the murders because he had sweated from working around the Moselle property, and also due to Oxycontin, the prescription pills he was taking.
He also testified that the clothes he was seen wearing in the Snapchat video placing him near the dog kennels before the murders were also the clothes he had on at work earlier.
An investigator previously testified that it seemed odd that Murdaugh appeared clean on the night of the murders, almost as if he had fresh clothes on.
Murdaugh breaks down on stand talking about his murdered son
Murdaugh broke down in tears speaking about Paul, with whom he said he had spent the day before the 22-year-old died.
Murdaugh, who is accused of his son’s murder, said that he deeply enjoyed spending time with his son. He said he was quite close with Paul and his other son, Buster.
“I love doing anything with (Paul),” he said, as he found his voice again after choking up. “It was an absolute delight.”
Murdaugh apologizes to his family on the stand
While on the stand, Murdaugh apologized to his and his wife’s family for lying to law enforcement after the murders.
He claimed that once he started lying in the aftermath of his wife and son’s deaths, he told his family that he had to keep lying.
“I would never intentionally do anything to hurt either one of them — ever,” he told his defense attorney on the stand.
Murdaugh admits lying about his whereabouts due to his addiction and paranoia
The defense dove immediately into one of the state’s most compelling pieces of evidence against Murdaugh, the video that placed him around the dog kennels shortly before the murder.
Murdaugh testified that he did lie to SLED agents about being there.
“Why did you lie?” defense attorney Jim Griffin asked him.
“As my addiction evolved over time I would get in these situations or circumstances where I would get paranoid,” Murdaugh replied.
Murdaugh takes the stand and denies shooting his wife and son
Murdaugh was sworn in and began testimony around 10:45 a.m.
The defense began by asking if he took any gun to “blow his son’s brain out,” or to shoot his wife, Margaret. Murdaugh testified that he did not shoot his wife or son at any time ever.
Local sheriff charges prison inmate for calling bomb threat into courthouse earlier in trial
The Colleton County Sheriff’s office said it charged a prison inmate Wednesday for calling in a bomb threat to the county courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina, earlier in the Murdaugh trial.
Joey Dean Coleman, an inmate at a prison about 30 minutes from the courthouse, is accused of calling a court clerk with the claim that there was a “bomb in the judge’s chamber” earlier this month.
After authorities did not discover a bomb, they traced the phone call to a cellphone that was in Coleman’s possession. A felony arrest warrant was issued for him.
The sheriff’s office said that “no direct connection has been identified between Joey Coleman and Alex Murdaugh or the Murdaugh trial,” but the matter remains under investigation.
Murdaugh’s testimony draws large audience
The line to get into the small county courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina, wrapped around the block today, as members of the public clambered to see Murdaugh testify in his own defense.
Because of the intense interest in the case, people started lining up to get into the courthouse in the early morning hours. That forced the court to cap the line for public tickets at 7:30 a.m. Seats inside the courthouse were crammed full of spectators.
A group of women, who didn’t give their names, stood at the front of the line. They said they arrived at the courthouse from Augusta, Georgia, at 5 a.m. to get their spots in hopes of seeing Murdaugh or his family testify.
Friend of murdered son testifies about day of murder
The defense called to the stand a close friend of Paul Murdaugh, the son who was killed, in advance of Murdaugh’s testimony this morning.
Nolan Tuten testified that he spoke with Paul the day of the Jun. 7 murders. Tuten drove to the family’s sprawling hunting lodge property Moselle in the morning to check on the dying sunflowers, planted to attract doves for hunting.
Tuten was supposed to return in the afternoon to replant the sunflowers but ultimately had a work conflict.
Later that night, around 10:30 p.m., he received word from his mother about an incident at Moselle and drove straight there.
“The f—— boat wreck,” Tuten recalled a “distraught” Murdaugh saying to him when they saw each other after the murders, referring to the 2019 fatal boat crash.
During cross-examination, prosecutor David Fernandez also questioned Tuten about a Snapchat video captured on Paul’s phone. The prosecution has used the video as evidence that Murdaugh was present at the dog kennels with his wife, Margaret, and Paul, minutes before they were shot and killed, contrary to his assertion that he was taking a nap in the Moselle main house.
Tuten testified that he did hear the voices of all three family members in the video.
Murdaugh will testify today
Murdaugh was read his rights regarding testifying in his own defense and he told the judge that he decided he wants to testify.
Defense attorneys raised concerns again about the scope of the prosecution’s cross-examination questions, particularly with their client’s alleged financial crimes.
“This is a Bernie Madoff trial, it’s not a murder trial,” defense attorney Dick Harpootlian said.
Judge Clifton Newman clarified again that the court will address evidence as it is presented, and cannot pre-emptively exclude certain lines of inquiry.
What the prosecution did, and didn’t do, so far
The prosecution rested last week and did not offer hard proof — such as a confession, eyewitnesses, video or fingerprints — that Murdaugh, a once-powerful lawyer and part-time prosecutor in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, had pulled the trigger.
Although the Murdaugh family owned guns, several of which were seized from their Colleton County hunting property in the investigation, the prosecution has said investigators didn’t find the actual murder weapons: a shotgun and an AR-style rifle.
Creighton Waters, the chief prosecutor for the state attorney general’s office, had relied heavily on circumstantial evidence to posit a motive for why Murdaugh, 54, would have wanted his wife, Margaret, 52, and their son Paul, 22, dead, and offered a timeline based on cellphone and car GPS data to show he had the opportunity.
Witness in Murdaugh’s trial describes chaotic crime scene
The defense for Murdaugh, the disgraced South Carolina lawyer accused of killing his wife and younger son, called into question the integrity of the crime scene in the second day of their case while also trying to distinguish between Murdaugh’s alleged deceptions, including financial misconduct, and the double murder charges he is facing.
Mark Ball, a former law partner who once considered Murdaugh a close friend, testified Wednesday morning in Walterboro that there were no roadblocks at the crime scene and that he was able to freely wander throughout Murdaugh’s property in Moselle after the killings.
“There was a piece of Paul’s skull, about the size of a baseball, laying there,” he recalled seeing, referring to Paul Murdaugh, the son Murdaugh is accused of killing.