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Alex Murdaugh murder trial: Highlights from Day 2 of suspects testimony

Prosecutors continued their cross-examination of disgraced former lawyer Alex Murdaugh, whom they accuse of killing his wife and younger son.

What to know about Alex Murdaugh's trial

  • Murdaugh took the stand in South Carolina for a second day in his trial on charges of murdering his wife, Margaret, 52, and their younger son, Paul, 22. He testified yesterday: "I didn't shoot my wife or son."
  • Murdaugh, 54, admitted he lied to law enforcement officers about his location before the murders due to his addiction to prescription pain pills and his general paranoia.
  • Murdaugh broke down multiple times on the stand as his attorney asked him to describe the murder scene.
  • In cross-examination Friday morning, the prosecution has grilled Murdaugh on his "new story," arguing that yesterday's testimony was fabricated to align with Snapchat video evidence that he saw his wife and son minutes before they were found dead.
  • Murdaugh's testimony concluded at the end of the day. The defense said they expect to call four more witnesses. Court will resume Monday morning.

The prosecution went after Murdaugh's credibility in its cross-examination

The main goal of today’s cross-examination was to impeach Murdaugh’s credibility in front of the jury.

The prosecution made the most headway when attacking his fuzzy timeline of events just before and after the killings. But the jury heard the word “lie” so many times, there’s always a risk of it losing some impact at a certain point.

There’s a fine line in this case between persuading the jury he can’t be trusted and belaboring the point after weeks of trial.

Murdaugh testimony concludes, court adjourned for day

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After defense hammered in the point in re-direct that Murdaugh's drug addiction controlled his fraudulent behavior and that their client was not attempting to mislead SLED investigators, re-cross examination began.

Waters argued once again that Murdaugh was manufacturing an alibi to cover his tracks, citing cellphone records. The prosecution has told the jury throughout the day that Murdaugh has lied for years, and that his testimony yesterday was one more lie to add to the list.

Murdaugh doubled down this afternoon that he did not murder his son or wife.

"I would never hurt Maggie. I would never hurt Paul," Murdaugh testified.

Court will resume Monday at 9:30 a.m. ET. The defense said they expect to call four witnesses.

Defense addresses Murdaugh lies as re-direct begins

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Jurors are back in the courtroom as re-direct begins of Murdaugh.

Defense attorney Jim Griffin asked if Murdaugh repeatedly lied to those he loved to hide his addiction.

"I did," he testified.

Prosecution finishes questioning Murdaugh

The prosecution finished questioning Murdaugh just before 4 p.m. ET Friday following a day of cross-examination. After prosecutor Creighton Waters wrapped, the judge called for a 15-minute break.

Prosecution connecting web of Murdaugh's admitted lies

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Waters has been walking the jury through all the times Murdaugh has lied to people from the financial crimes to the omission about the kennels, and now the story of him being attacked by an unknown assailant.

He argued that Murdaugh concocted the failed suicide attempt to convince the public that the 'bad guys,' those who supposedly orchestrated the June 7 fatal shootings, were back again.

"When accountability is at your door, Mr. Murdaugh, bad things happen," Waters said.

"June 7 happened. Sept. 4 happened," he added.

Murdaugh responded that while he was going through issues Sept. 4, he did not believe those problems related to the day of the murders.

"For the first time in your life of privilege and prominence and wealth, when you were facing accountability each time suddenly you became a victim," Waters continued.

Murdaugh disagreed with this characterization, bringing up again his drug addiction and not being in the right state of mind around the time of the suicide-for-hire scheme.

Waters' questions aim to score points with jury

Throughout today’s cross-examination, Waters has asked questions that he knows Murdaugh will quibble with. But even as Murdaugh questions the framing or denies the prosecutor's assertions outright, it allows Waters to make the point for the jury anyway.

You can start to see the beginnings of closing arguments shaping up today.

Trying to sow reasonable doubt, Murdaugh proposes another killer

Murdaugh is trying to raise the prospect of a different killer.

For the first time, we've heard Murdaugh state clearly that he believes someone —inspired by reading posts on social media about Paul’s boat wreck, which killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach — killed his wife and son.

By offering an alternative theory, he’s hoping to introduce reasonable doubt. Only one juror needs to find this persuasive for it to be a hung jury.

Murdaugh says boat crash is to blame for the slayings of his wife and son

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Media coverage in the wake of the 2019 fatal boat crash caused the shooting deaths of Margaret and Paul, Murdaugh testified.

"It was random vigilantes?" Waters asked.

"I believe that when Paul was charged criminally there was so many leaks, half-truths, half reports, half statements, partial information, misrepresentations of Paul that ended up in the media all the time," Murdaugh replied.

"I believe the wrong person saw and read that."

Waters slammed Murdaugh for trying to cover his tracks, after admitting to being in the location of the murders shortly before they happened.

"You don't have any evidence of that," Waters said.

Murdaugh clarifies distrust of SLED

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Waters has continued to question Murdaugh on when he decided to lie to investigators about being at the kennels.

Murdaugh has repeatedly attributed his lying to paranoia from drug use that was triggered in the SLED interview. He testified that he did not trust the agency because of the criminal investigation, at that time, into Paul's role in a 2019 fatal boating crash.

Court has resumed

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Court resumed just before 2:30 p.m. with cross-examination. Prosecutors are playing a recording of the June 8, 2021, interview Murdaugh had with investigators about the day of the murders and what happened after he discovered the bodies of his dead wife and son

Three key moments Murdaugh can't quite recall

On cross-examination so far, Murdaugh has admitted to being unclear about or not able to remember three key moments:

  • Whether he took a nap after leaving the kennels, which is when everyone agrees the murders happened
  • Why his cellphone data shows so much vigorous movement just after 9 p.m. that evening
  • What exactly he said to his mother’s caregiver about the length of time he was at his mother's house — which is central to his alibi

Court recessed for lunch

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Court will resume at approximately 2:15 p.m. ET.

Prosecution questioning at what point Murdaugh decided to lie

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Prosecutors are playing the video interview from June 8, 2021, a day after the murders, when Murdaugh was questioned by investigators inside a police car.

Murdaugh said in the video that he was at the house and his wife was at the kennels, omitting he had previously been there as well.

“At what point did you decide to lie?” Waters asked Murdaugh.

Murdaugh said his comment in the video about being at the house was not a conscious decision to lie. Then, he began to talk about his paranoia from drug use and his distrust for the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, or SLED, as factors of why he ultimately did lie.

Murdaugh gets emotional while discussing finding his wife and son’s bodies

For the second day in a row, Murdaugh got choked up as he discussed discovering the bodies of his wife and younger son.

“When I pulled up and saw Maggie and Paul Paul, I jumped out of that car. I know I went back to my car and I called 911 as quickly as I could,” he said through tears, telling the court that after he called 911 he checked the bodies.

“That point in time, when I got on the phone then, is when I went to them and did the things that I did,” he said.

The prosecution, however, argued that Murdaugh previously told law enforcement that he checked the bodies before he called 911.

“If I did say that, I don’t believe that’s accurate,” he responded. “At least that’s not what I remember. … That’s now what I believe happened. … I don’t believe that’s what I said.”

The former lawyer said that he was already on the phone with 911 when he checked his son’s body.

State asks Murdaugh about trying to influence witness testimony

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Previously, Shelley Smith, the caretaker of Murdaugh's mom, testified he suggested she should lie about the amount of time he spent at his mother's house in Almeda.

Waters asked Murdaugh about this interaction.

Murdaugh replied that it wouldn't make sense for him to try to influence Smith, knowing that investigators would look at his cellphone records.

Waters raised another example of Murdaugh speaking to potential witnesses in the case. The family housekeeper, Blanca Turrubiate-Simpson, testified in the case that Murdaugh made her feel uncomfortable by asking her about the clothes he was wearing the day of the murders.

Murdaugh also said he spoke to the housekeeper to ask what clothes he was wearing because of a previous conversation with a SLED investigator, David Owen. He said he wanted to give law enforcement accurate information.

Prosecution accuses Murdaugh of manufacturing an alibi

Waters accused Murdaugh of creating an alibi after the former lawyer said he did not remember what he was doing during a four-minute period between 9:02 p.m. and 9:06 p.m. on the day his wife and younger son were killed.

“You as a lawyer and prosecutor is up at 9:02 finally having your phone in your hand, moving around and making all these phone calls to manufacture an alibi. Is that not true?” Waters said.

Murdaugh responded that “it is absolutely incorrect.”

“It is an absolute fact that I am not manufacturing an alibi as you say,” he insisted, denying any involvement in hurting his family.

Prosecutors said that Murdaugh walked 293 steps and made numerous calls during that period.  

Honing in on cellular data

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Waters has been asking Murdaugh minute details about what he, Margaret and Paul were doing the day of the murders, honing in on cellular data, including the number of steps they took and phone calls the former lawyer made.

He focused specifically on a period roughly between 8 and 9 p.m. when Murdaugh's phone didn't show any activity. And he questioned the former lawyer about four minutes between 9:02 and 9:06 p.m. when he made a number of calls and logged steps.

"What I wasn't doing is doing anything that you've implied that I was cleaning off or washing off," Murdaugh testified of that window.

"I did not intentionally delete phone calls from my phone," he added.

Prosecutors are going over minor details hoping to discredit Murdaugh

Waters is walking Murdaugh through every last detail of the victims' steps in the minutes before their deaths, hoping to convince the jury he isn’t credible. Murdaugh is his most unsteady with this line of questioning than he has been all day.

Trial resumes following a break

Murdaugh is back on the stand for cross-examination following a brief break.

"If": The dangers for Murdaugh in taking the witness stand

What we saw just before the break was the danger of Murdaugh taking the witness stand. He’s being cross-examined about his shifting stories and his own words may hurt him.

By saying “if I took a nap," it allows Waters to highlight for the jury that Murdaugh can’t be trusted if he doesn’t even know for sure whether he was or wasn’t sleeping at the moment his wife and son were killed.

A timeline in question

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Murdaugh testified that he left the kennels because it was hot, sweaty and chaotic there.

The prosecution is attempting to poke holes in his timeline.

The Snapchat video that has been mentioned repeatedly placed Murdaugh at the murder scene at approximately 8:45 p.m.

The state believes Margaret and Paul were killed shortly after that time.

Waters asked him about how long it would have taken him to tell Margaret and Paul goodbye and leave. Murdaugh said about a minute. He also testified that he drove back to the main house, where he may have dozed off.

Murdaugh has previously said that he took a nap at the house and then visited his mother that night before he found Margaret and Paul's bodies. Pressed on the timeline by prosecutors, he suggested the nap may not have taken place, saying, "If I took a nap ..."

Judge calls for 15-minute break

The judge called for a 15-minute break around 11:20 a.m. ET. Murdaugh is expected to return to the stand as the prosecution continues its cross-examination.

Prosecution questions Murdaugh about dogs' behavior on the day of the murders

During cross-examination, the prosecution questioned Murdaugh about his dogs' behavior when he was with Margaret and Paul at the kennels not long before they were killed.

“Were the dogs barking and carrying on, going out into the woods or acting like they sensed somebody was around that they didn’t know?" Waters asked.

“No. … There was nobody around that the dogs didn’t know,” Murdaugh responded. “There was nobody else around for them to sense.”

He says he left Margaret and Paul at the kennels and discovered their bodies later that evening.

This is a key moment

We are now at a key moment: the time just before the murders. The prosecution hopes the jury will see where Murdaugh’s memory is crystal clear and where it’s fuzzy. Notice how many times Waters calls it his "new story."

Murdaugh concedes he did not provide critical information on the day of the murders

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The state questioned Murdaugh on the new facts that he has admitted in the last two days of testimony, including the former lawyer's admission that he was at the kennels where the bodies of his wife and son were later found.

"You as a lawyer and prosecutor didn't think that was important to offer on your own?" Waters asked.

"Well, I think it's important," Murdaugh answered.

He admitted that he left out critical information about his whereabouts June 7, the day of the murders.

Cross-examination reaches the day of the murders

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Waters has begun questioning Murdaugh on his whereabouts June 7, 2021, the day of the murders.

Murdaugh testified that on that day, he went to work at his then-law firm in preparation for the biggest case he had been involved with, the Dominion Energy case. He left work shortly after 6:00 p.m. and arrived at Moselle before Paul. He said Margaret was already home.

Murdaugh downplays 'confrontation' with CFO of his former law firm

Murdaugh seemed to downplay a confrontation he had with Jeanne Seckinger, the chief financial officer of his former law firm, telling the court that “it certainly didn’t seem like a confrontation.”

Seckinger testified earlier in the trial, without the jury present, about a conversation she had with Murdaugh over about $792,000 in missing legal fee funds June 7, the day of the murders. The missing money was from a case that he had worked on with another lawyer, Chris Wilson, Seckinger said.

She told the court that Murdaugh gave her a “dirty look” when she pressed him about turning over financial records, but he said today that “Jeanne came to me and was almost apologetic.”

“I don’t think that she was lying,” he said about her testimony. “I think she believes that’s the case.”

This prosecution strategy could confuse the jury

Throughout this trial, we have seen the prosecution bounce around between Murdaugh’s financial crimes and the murders in question, and now we see it again on cross-examination.

The risk is the jury will be confused about the timeline and lose the point of the argument.

Waters wants to establish that Murdaugh matches his story to fit facts as they come to light, but it’s not clear the jury can follow all of the dots he wants to connect.

State suggests Murdaugh intentionally lied about being at kennels

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In a testy exchange with the prosecution, Murdaugh suggested that the state operated in bad faith by not responding to emails from his attorneys and refusing requests to meet.

Waters shot back that Murdaugh had the opportunity multiple times to cooperate and tell investigators about his version of events, including being at the kennels minutes before Margaret and Paul were shot.

In yesterday's testimony, Murdaugh admitted to lying to SLED about the kennels due to paranoia from his drug use about being suspected of a crime. It was the first time the public has heard this.

Waters said Murdaugh made the story up.

"So you, like you've done so many times over the course of your life, had to back up and make a new story that kind of fits with the facts that can't be denied. Isn't that true, sir?" Waters asked.

"No, sir. That's not true," Murdaugh replied.

A month before the murders, family found Murdaugh's pills

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Murdaugh testified that in May 2021, his wife found his pills in a computer bag and told Paul, who later confronted him about the discovery.

"They had been watching me like a hawk for years," Murdaugh said of his family monitoring his drug abuse. "May was one just occurrence where I let them down."

Although Waters has yet to mention the murder charges, he brought up that Margaret called Paul "a little detective," in reference to knowing about his father's drug usage.

Murdaugh says there were times he took 60 pills a day

Murdaugh discussed his drug use in some detail today, telling the court that there were times when he would take more than 60 pills a day.

Murdaugh, who is on trial for the murder of his wife and younger son, said that in the beginning Oxycodone made him sick, but “as I took more and more and over the years, you build up a tolerance to pain pills … opioids gave me energy.”

“Whatever I was doing, it made it more interesting,” he said.

As Waters continued his line of questioning, Murdaugh said there were times he would “immediately” take pills when he woke up and would continue taking them throughout the day.

Murdaugh is dominating the cross-examination so far

Within the first 30 minutes of questioning, the jury has already seen Murdaugh take over this cross-examination.

The prosecution is trying to emphasize to the jury that he’s the type of person who can look someone in the eye and lie, but he has maintained tight control over the dialogue, often giving long, run-on answers without interruption.

Opiates gave me energy, Murdaugh says

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The state asked Murdaugh about how he was functioning as a lawyer while dealing with his drug addiction.

“I was taking so much just to not backslide or go into withdrawals," he testified.

Murdaugh said members of his family, including his wife, Margaret, and sons Paul and Buster, witnessed him facing severe withdrawal symptoms.

Questioning on Murdaugh's financial crimes continues

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Prosecutor Creighton Waters began the morning asking Murdaugh about the timeline of his fraudulent financial activity. The state has suggested he was desperate for funds and in a financially precarious spot leading up to the Jun. 7 murders.

Waters has also pressed Murdaugh on saying the names of the clients he frauded.

"These were real people that you looked in the eye and convinced them that everything was right," Waters said.

Murdaugh has repeated various versions of an apologetic admittance of stealing money from clients, whom he considered close friends and cared about.

"There's all kind of things that do, you know, to be able to look yourself in the mirror. You lie to yourself, I guess self-justification for these bad things," he testified.

Court will resume shortly

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Court will resume at approximately 9:30 a.m. ET with the state continuing its cross-examination of Murdaugh.

A timeline of the deaths

How things ended yesterday

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The state spent yesterday afternoon walking the jury through Murdaugh’s extensive legal background, how he may have misrepresented himself as law enforcement to gain advantages and his financial crimes.

Throughout the trial, the prosecution has argued that Murdaugh is a deeply dishonest and deceptive person. Still, the examination of his previous misconduct, particularly the focus on his financial fraud, has not been connected yet to the double murder charges.

Court will resume at 9:30 a.m. ET today.