Mr. Murdaugh, who is accused of murdering his wife and Son, was being cross-examined as he finished his evidence in his own defence.
Following five weeks of testimony, the murder case against Alex Murdaugh was narrowed down on Friday to what transpired in the vital few minutes after the famous South Carolina lawyer walked down to his family’s dog kennels, where his wife and son were subsequently discovered shot to death.
Prosecutors aggressively questioned Mr. Murdaugh about those key minutes on the second and final day of his crucial testimony in his own defence, demonstrating that his new account of his movements that night — offered this week after more than 20 months of denying he was at the kennels at all — is difficult to reconcile with the timeline of the murders.
Creighton Waters, the lead prosecutor, used phone calls, texts, videos, car navigation data, and cellphone step counts to show that Mr. Murdaugh would have had to leave the kennels and return to the house a short distance away only minutes before the killings — despite his claims that he had heard no gunshots.
Mr. Murdaugh first told police that he had been asleep in the home, but on the witness stand this week, he presented a different narrative when a video surfaced revealing that he had definitely been there at some time while his wife and son were out checking on the dogs.
Mr. Murdaugh said he rode a golf cart down to the kennels and chatted briefly with his wife before returning to the home alone a few minutes later.
Both victims’ phones — Paul Murdaugh, 22, and Maggie Murdaugh, 52 — were locked and never unlocked again around two minutes after he stated he departed, implying that they were slain about that time.
“Does it seem like real life to you, flying there and back?” Mr. Waters inquired, one of several inquiries aimed at portraying Mr. Murdaugh’s chronology as ludicrous.
He highlighted that Mr. Murdaugh had not confessed to being at the kennels until the critical footage, filmed that night by his son Paul, was shown in court.
“You had to sit in this courtroom and hear your family and your friends, one after the other, come in and testify that you were on that kennel video, so you had to back up and develop a new tale that sort of matched with the facts that couldn’t be refuted,” he added. “Is that correct, sir?”
“No, sir, that is not correct,” Mr. Murdaugh said.
Mr. Waters used cellphone and other data to show that after killing shooting his wife and son, Mr. Murdaugh went to see his sick mother, who lived about 15 minutes away, and made a series of phone calls to friends and relatives on the way there and back.
Mr. Murdaugh reiterated his own view of the crimes, stating on Friday that he has always felt his son was targeted because of his role in a catastrophic boat accident in 2019.
Paul Murdaugh was accused of drunkenly wrecking the boat, killing one of the passengers. Alex Murdaugh said that he felt the assaults were carried out in retaliation to scathing publications and internet comments that vilified his son.
“I thought at the time, and I still think now, that the incorrect person saw and read it,” he stated. “Because I know for a fact that the person or individuals who did what I observed on June 7 disliked Paul Murdaugh and were filled with rage.”
“And that is the only, only reason that anyone could be upset at PawPaw like that and hate him like that,” he said, using his son’s nickname.
Prosecutors claim Mr. Murdaugh murdered his son with two shotgun shots before turning a firearm on his wife and killing her several times. They claim that investigations into his finances were going to reveal that he had embezzled millions of dollars over many years, in part to fund his painkiller addiction, and that he killed his family to generate sympathy and stop the investigations into his finances.
Mr. Murdaugh said that his financial difficulties would never cause him to hurt his family. He sobbed as he apologised for lying about being at the kennels, claiming he had withheld the facts because he was afraid of being labelled a suspect, a worry driven by his painkiller addiction.
During the testimony, he also confessed taking millions of dollars from settlements destined for his clients as well as from his legal practise, including $3.7 million in 2019. Meanwhile, he was earning hundreds of thousands of dollars in legitimate revenue through his legal practise, where he worked as a personal injury lawyer.
Mr. Murdaugh’s significant expertise as a lawyer — he had previously worked with the county prosecutor’s office — was a prominent issue in his cross-examination on Friday.
Mr. Waters said that he was intimately aware with the phone records, automobile data, and other evidence that prosecutors were now utilising to attempt to condemn him.
According to legal experts, it is always perilous for a defendant to testify, and Mr. Murdaugh’s testimony may easily have backfired with the jury. Mr. Murdaugh seems to have taken a “calculated bet” in testifying about the events, according to Tyler D. Bailey, a lawyer in Columbia, S.C.
“Alex needs to come on the stand to tell the jury his tale,” Mr. Bailey said. Mr. Murdaugh, he said, was attempting to “restore his credibility and persuade the jury personally that just because he’s taken from numerous others doesn’t mean he murdered his son and wife.”
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In South Carolina, a murder conviction brings a minimum of 30 years in jail, and prosecutors have said that they will attempt to punish him for life without the possibility of parole. After a month of evidence and more than 70 witnesses, the trial was set to conclude by the middle of next week.
Mr. Murdaugh’s lawyer, Jim Griffin, returned to his primary argument Friday afternoon, questioning him directly if he had slain either his wife or son. Mr. Murdaugh said that even if he had anticipated that his theft would be exposed in 2021 — which he denies — he would have sooner injured himself than his family.
“I can assure you that I would injure myself before I hurt one of them,” he stated. “There’s no question about that.”