Before Alex Murdaugh’s testimony begins, the judge has made important decisions

WALTERBORO, SC – Before testimony begins with Attorney Alex Murdaugh in South Carolina murder trialDefense attorneys will ask the judge to make two important decisions this week that could remove a large body of evidence from the case.

Prosecutors want to produce extensive evidence of Murdaugh’s misconduct and the numerous other crimes he is charged with to show that he killed his wife and son to buy time to prevent his others from being killed misconduct is discovered. Defense attorneys don’t want the judge to admit the evidence, quarreling prosecutors are trying to frame Murdaugh to bolster him a weak case.

As District Judge Clifton Newman hears arguments after the jury sits, Murdaugh’s attorneys will also try to persuade him to refuse to admit evidence authorities said showed blood from his slain younger son on Murdaugh’s shirt. Defense attorneys said the shirt was destroyed before they could test it and there is evidence the expert who examined the shirt changed his conclusions under pressure from state agents.

The selection of the jury continues Tuesday as the court tries to bring 700 people to a pool of several dozen potential jurors to select the final panel of 12 plus six alternates.

Murdaugh, 54, faces 30 years life in prison if convicted of murder on the death of Maggie (52) and her son Paul (22). Murdaugh found their bodies on June 7, 2021 outside their Colleton County home. He said he was gone for about an hour to visit his sick father and mother.

Murdaugh is also in front about 100 loads in connection with other crimes, including money laundering, stealing from millions of customers, tax evasion and tried to get a man to fatally shoot him so his surviving son could get a $10 million life insurance policy.

Usually, prosecutors in prominent South Carolina trials know the most important evidence well in advance, whether or not they are Susan Smith’s confession that she rolled her car into a Union County lake and drowned her children or surveillance recordings shows Dylann Roof, with his distinctive haircut, entering and exiting an African-American church in Charleston, where he killed nine members in a racist attack.

However, little is known about the state’s case against Murdaugh aside from controversial evidence of blood spatter, subpoenas from Google and Snapchat, and mentions of videos recorded at the Murdaughs’ home where the killings took place.

When asked during a preliminary hearing what evidence they would present, prosecutors presented a detailed timeline of how Murdaugh’s wife and son were killed the same day a paralegal at a law firm reported that he might be stealing money.

They claim Murdaugh shot them both turn attention from his financial straits and that evidence of other crimes for which he is awaiting trial are relevant in illustrating how a father and husband could commit such a horrific act.

Murdaugh’s attorneys said it defied logic for an attorney to believe that control of his life would diminish if his wife and son were found shot multiple times with two different guns. They allege prosecutors are trying to frame him because they don’t appear to have other significant evidence.

It took state agents and prosecutors 13 months to bring murder charges against Murdaugh. No evidence has been released proving the weapons used to kill the victims, a possible confession, an eyewitness account, or other information related to the case.

In the evidence of blood spatter, Murdaugh’s attorneys said emails given to them by prosecutors showed an expert analyzing the shirt Murdaugh was wearing when he found the bodies and initially found that there were no blood spatter stains, but only spots that may have appeared on Murdaugh verified that his son and wife are still alive.

The expert changed his mind a few weeks later after state agents flew to his Oklahoma home, according to emails cited by Murdaugh’s attorneys. Chemicals were used in testing the jersey, making it impossible for any defense expert to conduct their own tests or even verify the original results, the defense said.

Prosecutors at a hearing in December said there could be problems with the blood spatter work, but asked to join forces with investigators. Since then, they have not commented on the matter, either in court documents or in the courtroom.

Murdaugh’s trial is expected to last up to three weeks, with prosecutors and defense attorneys presenting the judge with a list of more than 200 potential witnesses.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. Before Alex Murdaugh’s testimony begins, the judge has made important decisions

Sarah Y. Kim

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