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in the opening statements of alex murdoff murder trialThe prosecution went on a lengthy defense of the value and importance of circumstantial evidence.
“Too many times people hear, ‘Oh, it’s just a circumstantial case,’ but the law says otherwise,” prosecutor Creighton Waters told the jury. “The law states that circumstantial evidence is as good as direct evidence.”
These lines were a preview of what has become clear through three weeks of testing: Not so Prima facie The evidence – no witnesses, no smoking gun, no bloodied clothing – ties the disgraced former South Carolina attorney to the murders of his wife Margaret “Maggie” Murdoff and son Paul Murdoff.
Instead, the prosecution’s case against Alex Murdaugh has focused on circumstantial evidence regarding his opportunity and motive. In particular, they have tried to prove that he was at the crime scene that night, acted to show that he lied to investigators and painted a picture of an impostor who, in his actions, tried to distract the investigation. For this he killed his wife and son.
For the defense, the evidence is little more than “speculation” and “conjecture,” argued attorney Dick Harpootlian. They have highlighted Murdaugh’s romantic relationship with his family and ridiculed the prosecution’s focus on disproportionate financial misconduct.
“He has a lot more evidence about financial misconduct than evidence of guilt in the manslaughter and manslaughter case,” defense attorney Jim Griffin said in court during an argument over the relevance of this testimony.
Murdaugh, 54, pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder and possession of a weapon. Separately, he faces 99 charges for an array of alleged financial misconduct that will be deferred to a future trial.
Legal experts following the trial told CNN that the prosecution’s lack of direct evidence makes it difficult to secure a conviction – though certainly not impossible.
“It makes the case more difficult,” said trial attorney Misty Maris. “But at some point, if prosecutors have enough evidence that they can put together that story, and show motive and opportunity, then it certainly can rise to the level necessary to get a conviction.
Defense attorney Sarah Azari, who has followed the case, was not impressed by much of the evidence presented.
Azari said, “Juries want science, jurors want DNA, jurors want something that is inspiring.” “But because (prosecutors) lack it … their focus is now on weak motive and lies after the fact, but neither of those things … replace the evidence they need.”
With the prosecution wrapping up its case, here’s a closer look at the prosecution’s three main arguments.
Trial witness: ‘100% sure’ video made before murders has Murdaugh’s voice
one of the prosecutors The most compelling pieces of evidence are recorded audio. They are said to place the dead at the crime scene on the night of the murder.
According to Lt. David Britton Dove, a supervisor in the computer, a video less than a minute long was filmed on Paul’s phone at 8:44 p.m. on June 7, 2021, before Paul and Maggie were shot and killed. Crime Center at the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.
The video focuses on one of his dogs and appears to have been recorded in the kennel at his family’s home in Islandton. Three distinct voices can be heard in the background in the footage, and friends of the family have identified those voices as Paul, Maggie and Alex Murdoff.
Prosecutors said that Alex Murdoff’s appearance contradicted his claims to police that he was not at the kennel that night.
Prosecutors said in an opening statement that Murdo “told anyone who would listen that he was never there.” “The evidence will show that he was there. He was at the scene of the murder with the two victims.
In his own opening statement, harpootlian said audio The bus showed Murdaugh and his wife having a “normal discussion” with “no animosity”. Paul is “very happy,” Harpootlian said. “There’s nobody threatening her. Daddy’s not going to pull out a gun and kill her.”
In the aftermath of the murders, as seen on police body-cam footage, Murdaugh told investigators that he had been sleeping at his home and visiting his mother in Alameda at the time of the murders.
Prosecutors have used the Snapchat video to try to disprove their claim that he was asleep, and other testimony has also cut into their claims about how long he had been with his mother.
“It’s Up to You,” Waters, “It’s up to us to decide whether or not he’s trying to fabricate an alibi,” the prosecutor said.
Shelley Smith, a home care worker who was caring for Murdaugh’s mother, testified that Murdaugh had actually been to her mother’s home for approximately 15 to 20 minutes on the night of the murder. A few days later, they saw each other again, and Murdaugh insisted that he had been there 30 to 40 minutes on the night of the murder, she testified.
“Was that 30 or 40 minutes that night?” asked the prosecutor.
“I don’t remember,” replied Smith.
Other evidence focused on a series of calls and messages he made to his wife after the murders. A technical expert testified that those calls were missing from Murdo’s call log, indicating that they had been manually removed.
Watch the interview with investigators from the father accused of killing his wife and son
Finally, state prosecutors have tried to provide an adequate explanation as to why Murdaugh – described as a loving and devoted family man – would slaughter his wife and son.
A series of witnesses have accused Murdaugh of widespread financial wrongdoing at the law firm he named, and presented evidence that he lied to nearly everyone around him over years of fraud. The prosecution argued that a “day of reckoning” was approaching from many different angles, so he killed his family to distract and delay those financial investigations.
Two investigations in particular that could uncover Murdaugh’s wrongdoings were unfolding at the time of the murders.
for one, The chief financial officer of his law firm testified He spoke to Murdaugh about the missing money on the morning of June 7, 2021, hours before the murders. After the murders, an internal investigation of the funds took a backseat.
“We weren’t going to go out there and harass him for money when we were concerned about his mental state and the fact that his family was killed,” testified the CFO, Gene Sekinger.
Second, Murdoff was facing trial from the family of 19-year-old Mallory Beach, who was murdered in February 2019 when a boat owned by Murdoff and allegedly driven by Paul crashed. Prosecutors argued that a hearing on that civil case had been set for June 10, 2021 and had the potential to reveal his financial problems.
In fact, that “day of reckoning” did not come for another three months, when his law firm again confronted him about embezzled funds, leading to his resignation, a bizarre murder-case. -Conspiracy to rent and insurance scam, a stint in rehab as a drug addict, dozens of financial crimes, his dismissal, and eventually murder charges.
Although this financial evidence does not directly relate to the murder charges, the judge case monitoring It ruled to allow it, saying it was “so closely intertwined” with the state’s case that “its evidence is necessary to complete the story.” He instructed the jurors to consider this financial evidence only as part of the causation and not as a comprehensive criticism of the defendant’s character.
It’s easier said than done, legal expert Maris told CNN.
“There would be an instruction (to the jury) that – ‘Just because he’s a liar… doesn’t mean he committed murder,’ but in real life, the jury is hearing what it’s hearing,” she said. Said. “One of the major themes they’re going to consider for the prosecution is that Alex Murdoff was lying from the beginning to cover his tracks.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated Alex Murdaugh’s age. He is 54 years old.