Closing arguments begin after Murdaugh jury visit to crime scene

Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 9:56 AM CST|Updated: Mar. 1, 2023 at 4:46 PM CST
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WALTERBORO, S.C. (WCSC/Gray News) - Attorneys in the Alex Murdaugh murder trial began delivering their closing arguments beginning Wednesday after jurors visited the scene of the killings of the disbarred Lowcountry attorney’s wife and son in June of 2021.

Prosecutor Creighton Waters opened the state’s closing argument by stating Murdaugh was the only person with the motive and opportunity to commit the crimes.

Waters reasserted his opening statement that a “perfect storm” was brewing around Murdaugh and the pressure led to him becoming a “family annihilator.”

Murdaugh’s lies and financial fraud were put back in the jurors’ minds Wednesday as Waters walked them through Murdaugh’s history of stealing from clients and his former law firm. Waters said Murdaugh was trying to keep up his successful image and family legacy and went over how the pressures of the cases surrounding the 2019 Beaufort County boat crash threatened that legacy.

“We talked about the family legacy,” Waters said. “You heard how important that was to him and how important that was to this family and how it was in danger because of the boat case.

“The criminal charges as well as the civil charges, that legacy was in danger. And it was threatening also to expose him for who he really was, which will totally destroy his part of that legacy.”

Waters also pointed to Murdaugh’s opioid addiction and reminded jurors that “voluntary intoxication” doesn’t absolve someone of their crimes.

“So one of the tenets of juries is common sense,” Waters said. “That’s what you’re here for, is for an individual and then a collective common sense. 1,000 milligrams a day. Does that sound survivable?”

The 12 jurors and two alternate jurors met at the Colleton County Courthouse at 9 a.m. and boarded three transport vans with windows blocked up to keep anyone from looking in. Those buses left the courthouse bound for the Moselle Road property at about 9:10 a.m.

Judge Clifton Newman said earlier Wednesday that jurors may deliberate over the weekend if they are not able to agree on a verdict by the end of Friday, assuming that closing arguments and jury instructions are complete by then.

READ RECAP: Stage set for closing arguments in Murdaugh murder trial

Attorneys representing Murdaugh, who is standing trial for the killings, requested earlier this week that the jury be allowed to see the scene of the crimes in person. Newman and attorneys representing both the defense and prosecution went to the property, but jurors were instructed that they could only speak to Newman and attorneys were not allowed to speak to the jurors during the trip.

The clerk of court and court reporter also followed jurors to the scene, along with three pool journalists, a photojournalist for CourtTV, a photographer with the Post and Courier, and a reporter from The Wall Street Journal, are also accompanying the group.

READ RECAP: Stage set for closing arguments in Murdaugh murder trial

The jurors had 30 minutes to view the property and were expected to spend the bulk of their time at the kennels and shed where Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were fatally shot on the night of June 7, 2021, Wall Street Journal reporter Valerie Bauerlein said.

“Toward the end of the visit, the jury will be taken to the main house for a view of the exterior. They will not go inside,” she said.

The pool journalists were staged on Moselle Road outside the property while the jury toured the scene. After the jury left the area, the pool journalists were given 30 minutes to document the scene and the exterior of the main house.

Newman told the attorneys Tuesday afternoon he hoped to be back at the Colleton County Courthouse by 11 a.m. at which point closing arguments would begin.

SPECIAL SECTION: The Murdaugh Cases

The prosecution rested its case at the end of the day Tuesday after bringing back five witnesses and having one new one return for rebuttal.

Dr. Kenneth Kinsey was the final witness called by prosecutors before they rested their rebuttal case.

Kinsey’s testimony took aim at a couple of defense witnesses that brought differing theories.

Focusing on angles and the theory from Michael Sutton that the shooter had to be between 5 feet, 2 inches, and 5 feet, 4 inches, Kinsey testified that the shooter could have been any size and still fired from the angles and trajectory in Sutton’s report.

Kinsey demonstrated kneeling, bending and changing heights while wielding a dowel rod as a prop to show how the same angle could be achieved at each point.

“In your professional opinion, can you exclude a 6-foot-4 defendant like Alex Murdaugh, or anyone for that matter at that height, from shooting that shotgun at that angle?” Attorney General Alan Wilson said.

“Absolutely not,” Kinsey said.

Kinsey testified the crime scene was likely dynamic and chaotic. He said the shooter and Maggie Murdaugh were both moving.

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