COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – A jury pool of over 100 people returned to the Colleton County Courthouse Wednesday morning for final jury selection on the third day of Alex Murdaugh’s murder trial.
Murdaugh is accused of killing his wife Margaret and son Paul at their family property in June of 2021.
A 12-member panel and six alternates were selected relatively quickly, with no major disagreements between the prosecution and the defense.
After lunch, court resumed with opening statements. Murdaugh appeared extremely emotional at times, breaking down in tears. Members of his family — including his son, Buster — sat behind him.
In their opening statement, the prosecution focused on evidence they say points to Murdaugh as the killer, including data from his, Paul, and Maggie’s cell phones and what they described as a “storm” of events in Murdaugh’s life that pushed him to murder his wife and son. The defense emphasized the gruesome nature of the murders and claimed Murdaugh could never slaughter his family. They said evidence will show that the family was happy and had no problems.
Both parties reminded the jury that Murdaugh is innocent until proven guilty, but they had very different ideas about what the evidence would prove.
Court adjourned shortly before 5:00 p.m. and will resume at 9:30 a.m. with witness testimony.
ALEX MURDAUGH MURDER TRIAL LIVE BLOG:
4:48 p.m. – The jury was dismissed with instructions to return at 9:45 a.m. Thursday. Court is in recess.
4:35 p.m. – Defense concluded opening statements. The jury was sent to the jury room while Judge Newman discusses the possibility of calling witnesses today with lawyers. Both sides agreed that seeing a witness today likely would not be a good idea due to time constrictions.
4:07 p.m. – Defense began opening statements. Dick Harpootlian said that it was “our honor to represent Alex Murdaugh.” He asked Alex to stand up and introduced him as the loving father of Paul and the loving husband of Maggie. Harpootlian described — in gruesome detail — how Paul and Maggie were murdered, emphasizing that Paul’s head “exploded like a watermelon hit with a sledgehammer.” He said if the jury was going to convict Alex of murdering Maggie and Paul, they would have to accept that he was capable of butchering his wife and son at such a level. He noted that there was no evidence of any problems between the family and that defense will present evidence that shows the opposite.
Harpootlian went on to say that police decided the night of the murders that Alex did it, announcing the next day that there was no threat to the public. He claimed they spent a year “pounding a square peg into a round hole” trying to convict him.
Harpootlian then went on to say that the question is not whether Alex killed Paul and Maggie — claiming he did not — but whether one other person or two other people killed them.
3:56 p.m. – After a brief sidebar with Judge Newman, Waters resumed his opening statement and began talking about the Murdaugh properties. Waters said Maggie preferred staying at their Edisto House, but returned to Moselle the night of the murders around 8:15 p.m., just hours before the murders. Around 8:44 p.m., Paul took a Snapchat video of his friend’s dog in one of their kennels. Waters said Paul, Maggie, and Alex’s voices can be heard in the video. Minutes later at 8:49 p.m., Paul’s phone locked and was never again unlocked. Maggie’s phone locked around the same time and was never used again. Alex called Maggie’s phone at 9:02 p.m. and 9:06 p.m. He texted Maggie at 9:06 p.m. that he was leaving to check on his mother.
3:33 p.m. – State Prosecutor Creighton Waters began with a powerful opening statement, saying that Alex Murdaugh shot Paul twice with a shotgun, then opened fire on Maggie. Waters said that cell phone evidence will put Murdaugh at the scene, despite Murdaugh allegedly telling people he was never there. He said that the jury will also see body camera evidence from that night and ballistics evidence that indicate Murdaugh is guilty. Waters also spent time poking holes in Murdaugh’s alibi that he gave for that night.
3:33 p.m. – OPENING STATEMENTS BEGIN IN ALEX MURDAUGH MURDER TRIAL
3:28 p.m. – Judge Newman called court back into session and read Murdaugh’s charges. He explained to jurors that they are in charge of deciding whether Murdaugh is guilty of the charges based only on the evidence presented during the trial. He instructed the jury not to discuss the case with anyone — family, friends, lawyers, etc. They were also instructed not to watch news reports or documentaries on the case, listen to podcasts, or read about the case on any websites.
2:50 p.m. – Buster Murdaugh, Alex Murdaugh’s oldest and only surviving son, arrived at the courthouse. He was accompanied by Alex’s brother, John Marvin Murdaugh, and two other people. The group was escorted by a law enforcement officer. Reporters shouted questions at Buster, but he kept his eyes forward and proceeded towards the courthouse. John Marvin patted Buster on the back as they neared the entrance.
1:28 p.m. – Court is in recess for lunch and will resume at 3:00 p.m., at which point Judge Clifton Newman said he would charge the jury. Opening statements will follow.
1:25 p.m. – Before breaking for lunch, defense asked about a submitted consent order regarding how to present “sensitive material.” The order would “seal photographs and videos graphically depicting the victims,” according to Judge Newman. Judge Newman said that he would grant the order to protect the privacy of the victims and their families.
1:20 p.m. – JURY SWORN IN FOR ALEX MURDAUGH MURDER TRIAL
The jury is made up of four men and eight women, 10 of whom are white and two who are African American. There are three male alternates and three female alternates.
1:15 p.m. – Six alternates were selected. Judge Newman dismissed the remaining jury pool.
1:04 p.m. – A panel of 12 was selected. The process now moves to selecting six alternates.
12:44 p.m. – Court gaveled back into session for jury selection. Each juror was called to stand in front of the prosecution and defense. Each party was then able to say whether they would like that juror to serve.
12:19 p.m. – Judge Newman excused the woman who said she had a cough when he asked about COVID-19 symptoms, bringing the potential jury pool down to 79. Court then went into recess for 15 minutes as lawyers reviewed names on the jury pool list.
12:13 p.m. – Judge Newman thanked the qualified candidates who were not chosen for the jury pool and dismissed them.
12:05 p.m. – The clerk began the swearing-in of the 80-person jury pool. The remaining members of the panel will be released. The final 12-member jury and six alternates will be selected from that pool.
11:52 a.m. – Judge Newman returned to the courtroom. He said that court will be at ease while clerks prepare an updated jury pool list.
11:38 a.m. – Judge Newman once again asked if anyone had any issues serving on the jury. Several jurors said yes. He then asked if anyone was experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms or had been exposed to any known contacts. One juror said yes. Judge Newman then called back the jurors who said they would have a problem serving for further discussion.
11:32 a.m. – Judge Newman returned and excused two jurors. The roll call resumed.
11:16 a.m. – The clerk began the roll call to make sure everyone asked to return to the jury pool is present. Shortly after, Judge Newman called three members of the jury pool, along with counsel, to come forward for further discussions. No reason was given.
11:15 a.m. – Judge Clifton Newman entered the courtroom. He greeted those in attendance, then audio was briefly cut.
10:30 a.m. – Alex Murdaugh arrives at the courthouse.