COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Jury selection resumed for the second day Tuesday as Alex Murdaugh stands trial for the brutal June 7, 2021 murders of his wife Margaret and youngest son Paul at their Colleton County property.
Judge Clifton Newman, Murdaugh’s attorneys, and prosecutors weeded through three panels of prospective jurors Monday, sifting out those who were ineligible.
The fourth and final panel met Tuesday to go through the same process. Jurors deemed eligible will return at 11:00 a.m. Wednesday for the official jury selection. Parties will choose 12 jurors and six alternates, with the prosecution and defense each getting a set number of strikes.
After breaking for lunch, court resumed for motions hearings on what could be key components of the trial: evidence pertaining to blood spatter, motive, and ballistics.
Prosecutors agreed not to mention blood spatter evidence in front of the jury until a counsel hearing was held to determine whether it would be admitted. They opted to move forward with other elements of the trial and take up that issue at a later date.
Regarding evidence of Murdaugh’s other alleged crimes, which prosecutors say establish motive and defense says is a “fabrication” meant to hurt Murdaugh’s character. Judge Newman said that he would not permit all evidence, but would not prohibit it either. He said it will be allowed where appropriate.
To determine whether ballistics evidence would be allowed, SLED ballistics expert Paul Greer answered questions from both the prosecution and the defense. He testified to his qualifications, SLED protocols, the scientific methodology used, and his findings in the case. Judge Newman ultimately ruled that he was credible and his report would provide valuable information to the jury.
ALEX MURDAUGH MURDER TRIAL LIVE BLOG:
4:45 p.m. – Court adjourned for the day and is expected to resume Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. with jury selection.
4:40 p.m. – Judge Newman ruled that the ballistics evidence and Greer’s testimony be admitted.
4:30 p.m. – Greer’s testimony concluded. Prosecution argued that Greer established he was a credible witness and that his findings should be admissible before the jury.
3:56 p.m. – Defense questioned Greer about his role in this specific case. They asked about the 300 Blackout gun found at the home that Greer tested. Greer said that he was unable to determine if that gun was the gun that fired the casings found at the crime scene. However, he did find it to be an apparent match to other casings found around the property. He also said that the casings at the crime scene and those found around the property appeared to show similar markings indicating that they had been, at some point, cycled through the same weapon (cycled does not necessarily mean fired).
3:06 p.m. – Ballistics expert Paul Greer began testifying before counsel. This will determine whether Judge Newman allows his testimony before a jury. Greer described the qualifications and standards that he must meet as a SLED ballistics expert. He cited several scientific, peer-reviewed methods SLED employs, required accreditations, competency and proficiency tests, and continuing education requirements.
2:55 p.m. – Prosecutors argued that motive information is relevant because they see a “temporal” relationship between evidence in the boat crash case coming to light, Murdaugh being confronted by his law firm about missing funds, and Paul and Maggie’s murder. Defense argued that theory is absurd and there was no evidence of issues within the family. They said prosecutors just wanted “bad character” evidence to paint Murdaugh in a bad light.
2:46 p.m. – Defense is requesting a counsel hearing on the validity of ballistics evidence related to shell casings found on the Murdaugh property after Maggie and Paul were murdered. Prosecutors say that casings found around Maggie’s body and casings found around the property — including on a shooting range — appear to have all come from the same gun. The gun is one that they believe belonged to the family. Prosecutors believe a counsel hearing needs to take place before the jury is sworn in.
2:42 p.m. – Counsel addressed allowing evidence related to other crimes Murdaugh is accused of committing into the case. Prosecutors said that the defense filed a motion Tuesday to limit evidence from the boat case. They say it lends to what they believe was a motive.
2:38 p.m. – Prosecutors said that they met with the defense over lunch break and decided not to address blood spatter evidence during opening statements. They plan to address whether testimony from a blood spatter expert will be allowed at a later point in the case. Defense agreed, saying that when that time comes, they will request a counsel hearing to determine what is permitted.
2:36 p.m. – Court resumed with live video feed. Judge Clifton Newman said that there were 123 qualified jurors to choose from.
KEY MOTIONS HEARINGS BEGIN IN MURDAUGH MURDER TRIAL
2:00 p.m. – Court is expected to resume with motions hearings on key evidence. Judge Newman will be asked to rule on whether blood spatter evidence and testimony, ballistics evidence, and information about Murdaugh’s other crimes will be allowed during the trial.
12:00 p.m. – Individual meetings with the jurors who were held back appeared to be ongoing. Audio remained disconnected.
11:15 a.m. – Judge Newman asked jurors who believed that they could not, for any reason, serve on the jury to stand. He also asked counsel to identify any jurors they may have questions about. Several jurors were held back for further discussion. The rest were dismissed and told to return at 11:00 a.m. Wednesday.
10:45 a.m. – Judge Newman then moved on to asking about personal or professional connections to the Murdaugh family, Murdaugh’s former law firm PMPED, other parties in the case such as law enforcement and counsel, and a list of over 100 witnesses. Several jurors had connections. Many said that they could remain impartial, while others said their relationships may influence their opinion. The latter were dismissed.
10:30 a.m. – Judge Newman moved to questions specific to the case. He asked anyone who had read, seen, or heard anything about the case or Murdaugh to stand. Several jurors stood. He asked where they got their information and jurors responded with a mix of news, podcasts, the internet, social media, and word of mouth.
Judge Newman asked if any had already formed opinions about Murdaugh’s guilt or innocence and if so, could they put those opinions aside and make a decision based on the evidence presented in court. At least 14 people said no and were dismissed.
10:20 a.m. – Judge Newman transferred service requirements for several jurors who have conflicts serving on such a long trial, such as those who are in school, those who are presently not able to take off work, or those who have certain medical conditions or procedures scheduled.
10:10 a.m. – Judge Newman began asking jurors questions that would disqualify or exempt them from jury service, such as whether they are residents of the county, have any criminal convictions, have previously served within the past year, serve as a primary caregiver, or perform services so essential to a business that the business would shut down without them. Several jurors were dismissed, exempt, or excused.
9:50 a.m. – The clerk began with the roll call, asking each juror the preliminary questions: Where do you work? What do you do? Are you single or married? What does your spouse do? Those who are retired or unemployed were asked to disclose their last place of work.
9:46 a.m. – Court gavels into session. Judge Newman welcomed the fourth and final panel of prospective jurors. Alex Murdaugh stood to greet the panel. Murdaugh turned and said “good morning,” to which some jurors responded. Judge Newman read Murdaugh’s charges and reminded the panel that Murdaugh pleaded not guilty and is presumed innocent until proven otherwise.
9:00 a.m. – Alex Murdaugh arrives at the Colleton County courthouse for the second day of jury selection in his murder trial.