Alex Murdaugh’s defense today rested its case ahead of rebuttal witnesses from the prosecution and a field trip for jurors to visit the murder scene later this week.
The defense concluded by calling the alleged killer’s younger brother John Marvin Murdaugh to the stand who gave emotional testimony about cleaning up Paul’s brains which were still splattered across the kennels the day after the killings.
The prosecution will tomorrow call at least four witnesses in reply, possibly five, who ‘will be focused on issues raised during the defense case.’
Judge Clifton Newman said that after this jurors will make the half-hour trip from the Colleton County courthouse to the kennels at the hunting estate in Moselle, South Carolina, where Murdaugh allegedly shot his wife Maggie and younger son Paul.
The defense earlier requested that the jury attend the scene to give them a better understanding of where the pair were killed on the night of June 7, 2021.
Alex Murdaugh smiles while taking with defense attorney Jim Griffin during his double murder trial at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro on Monday
Maggie’s body was found a few yards to the right of a doghouse, while Paul’s was by the doorway at the end of the kennels. Judge Clifton Newman today granted the defense request for jurors to visit the scene to gain a better understanding of the shootings
Paul, Maggie, Alex and Buster Murdaugh attend a dinner at the South Carolina Yacht Club. Buster was staying with his girlfriend outside Charlotte at the time of the killings
The court will then hear closing arguments from both sides before the jury are sent to reach a verdict. Murdaugh faces 30 years to life in prison if convicted.
Following Monday’s proceedings, Dick Harpootlian questioned how long prosecutor Creighton Waters intended to take with his remaining witnesses.
‘I’m in no way critical of Mr Waters but his estimate of time has been a little… mushy. I think is a good way to put it. I’m not criticizing but I’m just saying this was supposed to be a three-week trial and now it’s a six-week trial.’
Waters told the judge: ‘We have maybe four, maybe five (witnesses) at this point in time. I am hopeful that we could accomplish that in a day.’
He added: ‘I don’t think many of them except for one would be lengthy. And by lengthy I don’t mean exceptionally so.’
Harpootlian this morning asked the judge to allow jurors to visit the kennels to give them a better ‘spatial’ understanding of the murder scene.
But Harpootlian warned the judge that cops need to close the road and secure the gates beforehand to stop the jury being influenced by the ‘carnival attitude’ of trial enthusiasts trespassing on the property.
Harpootlian said Alex’s brother John Marvin was forced to call the sheriff last weekend because ‘literally dozens’ of trespassers were taking selfies in the feed room at the kennels where Paul was blasted twice with a shotgun.
Judge Newman said that a visit to the estate could be arranged – overruling the prosecution objection. He assured Harpootlian the scene would be secured.
The defense called John Marvin as its 14th and final witness Monday who wept as he described cleaning up Paul’s brains the day after the murders because ‘it felt like the right thing to do, I felt like I owed him.’.
John Marvin said he returned to the crime scene with police permission after arriving to be at Alex’s side on the night his wife and son were shot dead.
Murdaugh wept at the defense table as his brother described cleaning up his dead son’s brains that were still splattered across the feed room at the kennels the day after the killings
The kennels at the estate. Paul was shot in the feed room which stands at the far right end of the row of dog cages
Paul’s body was found lying in the doorway of the feed room at the end of the row of dog cages at the kennels. Prosecutors say Murdaugh first blasted Paul twice with a shotgun before killing his wife with a rifle a few moments later
Maggie’s blood-soaked body lies under a sheet at the crime scene on the night of June 7, 2021. She was shot five times with an assault rifle, while Paul was blasted twice with a shotgun a few yards away at the kennels on the estate
MURDER SCENE: Paul’s body lies outside the storage room, while Maggie lies just outside the kennels by the doghouse
He said the grass where Maggie’s blood-soaked body had lain was covered with dirt ‘so there was really nothing to do.’ But the feed room at the kennels where Paul was blasted twice with a shotgun was still covered in blood and brain matter.
John Marvin sobbed as he described the scene, telling jurors: ‘I saw blood, I saw brains, I saw pieces of skull, I saw tissue – and when I say brains it could just be tissue – I don’t know what I saw, it was just terrible.
‘And for some reason I thought it was something that I needed to do for Paul to clean it up. It felt like it was the right thing to do, I felt like I owed him and I started cleaning.
‘I can promise you no mother or father or aunt or uncle should ever have to do and see what I did that day.
‘I’m not blaming anybody but I was just overwhelmed and I did everything I could and I would have moments where I would stop crying for a moment, just in disbelief.’
Murdaugh wept at the defense table as his brother described the horrifying ordeal.
John Marvin Murdaugh and his wife Liz outside the Colleton County courthouse Monday
Alex’s younger brother John Marvin with his wife Liz, and his older brother Randy with his wife Christy, arrive at court Monday
Buster Murdaugh, center, arrives with his girlfriend Brooklynn White, Alex’s sister Lynn (left) and brother John Marvin (right)
‘At one point I called my brother Randy and told him what I was doing and he immediately told me to stop doing it, it was not good for me and it was not healthy for me to be there,’ John Marvin said.
‘And I couldn’t stop. I had to do it for Paul. It’s just what I had to do.’
He said: ‘It was probably 15 or 20 minutes later, Mark Ball (a close family friend) shows up, y’all heard Mark Ball testify and came and hugged me and told me it was okay to leave. Okay to leave what was rest of Paul and that they would clean it up.’
He added: ‘It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever been through in my life.’
Murdaugh during the trial has floated his own theory of who committed the murders, testifying on Friday that he believed someone angry over a deadly boating accident involving Paul had done so.
He acknowledged that he lacked evidence to support that theory.
During his testimony, he also said he had deceived law partners and clients out of huge sums of money to feed his drug habit, potentially undercutting his credibility with the jury.
Murdaugh arrives surrounded by sheriffs at the courthouse Monday
Buster, Maggie, Paul and Alex Murdaugh in a photo the mother posted for Father’s Day in 2020
Under cross examination, Waters sought to portray Murdaugh as a serial liar who was under pressure due to mounting financial troubles in the months leading up to the killings.
Murdaugh admitted to lying to investigators in the aftermath of the murders by telling them he was not at the kennels on the night of the murders.
He changed his account after the jury saw cellphone video that contained audio of Murdaugh’s voice that placed him at the scene minutes before investigators have said his wife and son were killed.
Murdaugh, the scion of an influential South Carolina legal family, was indicted by a grand jury in July and pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a weapon.
The case has drawn intense media coverage given the political influence of the Murdaugh family in South Carolina.
Murdaugh’s sole surviving son Buster, 26, has attended court everyday and testified last week. The disbarred attorney’s brothers John Marvin and Randy and sister Lynn have also attended the Colleton County courthouse in Walterboro most days.