Murdaugh trial recap: Both sides give opening statements after jury is selected
WALTERBORO, S.C. (FOX Carolina)- The jury selection process came to a close Wednesday afternoon and both sides gave their opening statements in the murder trial for Alex Murdaugh.
Murdaugh arrived at the Colleton County courthouse at around 10:30 a.m. for the final part of the jury selection process.
The day began with a roll call of the final 124 potential jurors. Following the roll call, microphones in the courtroom were muted so the court could speak to the potential jurors individually. Following these individual meetings, the juror pool was narrowed down to 80 and the court went into recess before the process continued.
The court then randomly selected jurors from the remaining 80, where the State and defense had the chance to excuse them before they were sworn into the final jury. By around 1:15 p.m., 12 jurors and six alternatives were chosen for the trial, and the court took a break before opening statements began at 3:00 p.m.
Opening statements began shortly after 3:00 p.m. and those in the courtroom were shown for the first time. Alex Murdaugh’s oldest son Buster Murdaugh would be seen sitting a few rows behind his father.
PROSECUTION’S OPENING STATEMENTS
The prosecution gave their opening statements first. They began by going through the moments leading up to Maggie and Paul Murdaugh’s murders. Lead prosecutor Creighton Waters argued that evidence shows that both victims were shot at close range and did not have defensive wounds. He added that cell phone evidence shows that “[Murdaugh] was there just minutes before with Maggie and Paul.”
Waters continued by explaining to the jury that their job is to decide if Alex Murdaugh is guilty without a reasonable doubt. “It’s not any doubt, It’s reasonable doubt,” Walters said.
Waters then began talking about the evidence in the case by describing the statements and video collected the night of the murders. “Watch those closely,” Waters said. “Watch [Murdaugh’s] expressions. Listen to what he’s saying and what he’s not saying.”
Next Waters broke down the ballistics evidence claiming, “It was a family weapon that killed Maggie Murdaugh,” citing the SLED expert, who believes .300 Blackout casings found in multiple locations throughout the property were loaded/ejected from the same rifle used to kill Maggie Murdaugh. He also mentioned that a Blackout rifle owned by the family has never been found.
Waters concluded his opening statements by saying cell phone records will be a critical part of the case. According to Waters, Alex Murdaugh can be heard talking in a video Paul Murdaugh allegedly recorded on his phone at the dog kennels just moments before his death.
DEFENSE’S OPENING STATEMENTS
Dick Harpootlian began the defense’s opening statements by saying it is the team’s “honor to represent Alex Murdaugh.”
Harpootlian then countered the State’s picture of the situation saying Paul Murdaugh was the “apple of [Alex Murdaugh’s] eye.” Harpootlian continued by describing Paul Murdaugh’s death in graphic detail and stating that Maggie was “executed” while trying to run away.
Contrary to what the State said, Harpootlian argued that Murdaugh was emotional, hysterical, and distraught when he called 911 after finding his family member’s bodies. He added that Murdaugh was “traumatized” following their deaths and retrieved a shotgun from the home because he feared the killer was still “out there.”
Next Harpootlian claimed that there could have been two shooters involved in the murders because two different guns were used to kill Maggie and Paul Murdaugh. “Who was Maggie running from,” Harpootlian asked.
Hartpoolian concluded his statements by saying he wants the jury to go to the crime scene to get an idea of how big the Moselle Road property is and that he would ask the judge if that would be possible.
The day ended after the State announced that audio on body-worn camera video evidence is not working. Following this discovery, the judge dismissed the jury until 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
On Wednesday, the judge ruled that all crime scene, autopsy photos and videos will be put into sealed evidence during the trial. The filing, which is a joint motion from the state and defense will seal photos and videos that would graphically depict the victims.
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