Prosecution in Alex Murdaugh trial rests its case after dramatic re-enactment
Colleton County jurors are expected to take field trip to the crime scene before closing arguments
Prosecutors in Alex Murdaugh’s double murder trial rested their case Tuesday afternoon after calling six rebuttal witnesses — including a crime scene expert who let South Carolina attorney general point a gun at his head in a dramatic re-enactment.
The trial that has stretched into its sixth week has chronicled Murdaugh's stunning downfall from the wealthy scion of a powerful legal dynasty to an admitted drug addict and thief who allegedly swindled his law firm and clients out of nearly $9 million.
Prosecutors have argued that Murdaugh, 54, used a shotgun to blow off the head of his son, Paul, and a rifle to execute his wife, Maggie, June 7, 2021, to distract from his financial malfeasance.
The final witness, crime scene expert Kenneth Kinsey, refuted defense ballistics expert Mike Sutton, a forensics engineer.
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Crime scene expert refutes defense claim that Maggie's shooter was short
Sutton testified that the angle of the shots indicated that the shooter had to have been between 5 foot 2 and 5 foot 4.
But Kinsey, who first testified Feb. 16, countered Tuesday that there were too many variables that Sutton didn't weigh in his analysis.
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"You'd have to consider this to be a static crime scene. Very little movement," he said. "This was a very dynamic crime scene."
Kinsey said based on his analysis, the killer could have been 6-foot-4, which is Murdaugh's height.
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson questioned Kinsey, which was the first time he conducted an examination of a witness at the trial.
Wilson asked him about defense blood-spatter expert Tim Palmbach's claim that the killer shot Paul in the chest then circled behind him and delivered a fatal wound to the back of his head.
They conducted a re-enactment with Wilson aiming a shotgun at Kinsey's bowed head.
Kinsey described the defense theory as "preposterous" and incompatible with the evidence.
Prosecution kicks off rebuttal case by challenging Murdaugh's testimony
Prosecutors challenged Murdaugh's testimony by recalling his former law partner and close friend, Ronnie Crosby, as their first witness in their rebuttal case.
While on the stand last week, Murdaugh told jurors that he checked wife Maggie and son Paul's pulses while he was on the phone with 911 after finding their bodies near the dog kennels of the family's hunting estate known as Moselle.
Lead prosecutor Creighton Waters asked Crosby, who arrived at the crime scene the night of the murders to support his grieving friend, what Murdaugh told him.
"My understanding of what he told me was that he checked them before he called 911," Crosby replied.
The disbarred attorney's account allegedly changed after data from his Chevrolet Suburban revealed he called police less than 20 seconds after his car pulled up at the murder scene.
Murdaugh has denied fatally shooting his wife and son, who prosecutors say were killed at 8:49 p.m. when their phones locked for the final time.
Waters also asked Crosby when he had first heard Murdaugh admit that he was at the crime scene with the victims at 8:45 p.m., minutes before they were murdered.
Crosby replied that it was during Murdaugh's testimony last week.
Murdaugh initially told Crosby and investigators that he had not gone to the kennels the night of the slayings, but he changed his story after video recovered from Paul's phone in 2022 contradicted that claim.
Sparks fly on cross of Murdaugh's ex-friend and partner
On cross-examination, defense lawyer Dick Harpootlian suggested that Crosby's testimony was affected by his resentment of Murdaugh for stealing from the law firm where they were both once partners.
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Crosby said the firm had to borrow millions to pay back all the clients that Murdaugh allegedly fleeced – money that came directly out of the partners' pockets.
"Are you angry at him for stealing your money?" Harpootlian asked several times in a combative exchange.
"I have no feeling one way or another," he replied, visibly annoyed.
"You don’t have any feeling about Alex Murdaugh stealing your money?" Harpootlian pressed.
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"I have had anger with him, extreme anger, Mr. Harpootlian, because of what he did to my law firm, my partners, my clients, his clients, our clients – what he did to his family, what he's did to so many people" Crosby replied. But he said he let that go a long time ago.
State's pathologist says there was no contact wound to Paul
Prosecutors recalled Dr. Ellen Riemer, a pathologist who previously testified that the second shot that killed Paul grazed his shoulder, entered his neck and blew his brain out of his head.
A pair of defense witnesses Monday testified that the second shot entered the back of Paul's head when a shotgun was fired directly into his skull. The shooter would have been covered in Paul's blood, brain matter and tissue, they said.
However, Riemer held firm to her initial conclusion that the bullet entered his neck and was not a contact injury.
"His eyes would have been displaced from the orbital bone," she said of the damage from a contact wound. "His entire face would have been split open."
Paul's brain was severed from his body and found near his feet, but his face remained intact, according to prior testimony.
Murdaugh's brother testified Monday as final defense witness
The defense, which launched its case last week, called 14 witnesses – including Murdaugh himself.
The defendant's brother, John Marvin Murdaugh, was the final defense witness Monday. He wept as he told jurors that he cleaned up bits of his slain nephew's body inside the feed room.
"I saw blood, I saw brains, I saw pieces of skull," he said, choking back tears. "It was terrible."
He said he was stunned that investigators had left the mess behind and that it was "the hardest thing I've ever been through in my life."
In that difficult moment, he said, he made a vow to his nephew: "I told Paul I loved him, and I promised him I'd find out who did this," he recalled.