BLOG: Day 23: ‘I did lie’: Murdaugh admits he was at kennels before murders
WALTERBORO, S.C. (WCSC) - Disbarred attorney Alex Murdaugh told jurors Thursday morning he lied about his whereabouts the night of the killings of his wife and youngest son.
But he insisted multiple times that he did not shoot Maggie or Paul Murdaugh on the night of June 7, 2021.
“I would never intentionally do anything to hurt either one of them. Ever,” he said.
When defense attorney Jim Griffin asked him whether it was his voice heard on a video his son, Paul, took at the family’s Colleton County hunting property just minutes before the double shooting, he acknowledged for the first time that he was there and that he lied to investigators and his family when he said he had not been there before discovering their bodies later that night.
“As my addiction evolved over time, I would get into situations or circumstances where I would get paranoid, thinking. It could be anything that triggered it,” he said. After finding the bodies, he said all of his partners were repeatedly telling him not to talk to anyone without his attorney with him, adding that he began feeling paranoid again as a deputy sheriff performed a gunshot residue test on his hands and as he sat in a police car with Investigator David Owen asking questions about his relationship with the two victims.
“All those things, coupled together after finding them, coupled with my distrust for [the State Law Enforcement Division] caused me to have paranoid thoughts,” he said. He said he wasn’t thinking clearly and doesn’t think apologized to his family, including his surviving son, Buster, who watched from the courtroom gallery, for lying about his whereabouts.
“Most of all,” he said, “I’m sorry to Mags and PauPau,” the nicknames he used for his wife and son.
Griffin asked if he continued to lie after that night.
“Once I lied, I continued to lie,” Murdaugh said. He quoted a portion of a familiar quotation from Sir Walter Scott’s play “Marmion,” saying, “What a tangled web we weave.”
“But once I told a lie, and I told my family, I had to keep going,” he said.
Murdaugh told judge he intended to testify
Judge Clifton Newman briefed Murdaugh on his constitutional rights to testify and to not testify in the murder trial. Murdaugh, flanked by his attorneys, told the judge he did not need further consultation and has decided he would testify.
A line of spectators formed early Thursday morning amid speculation that Murdaugh himself would take the stand.
One question raised before Murdaugh might testify is whether the prosecution would be allowed to cross-examine him on nearly 100 alleged financial crimes with which he is also charged. Judge Clifton Newman denied a defense request to block the state from questioning Murdaugh about those other charges. But he later said he’s willing to discuss whether Murdaugh can plead the fifth when asked about them.
The most compelling testimony of the day on Wednesday came from Mudaugh’s former law partner, Mark Ball, who went to the Moselle Road crime scene on the night of the double shooting. Ball’s testimony seemed to bolster both the defense and the state’s arguments. He testified that the crime scene was not secure, claiming anyone was allowed in and out of the property and that Paul Murdaugh’s body was not properly covered in the rain.
“I don’t know who I was supposed to be mad at, but it just infuriated me that this young man had been murdered and there were still his remains there and there was a large blood spot, tissue, out right off of the apron of that area, right outside the feed room that was there. And it’s kind of like walking across the grave and just, it’s one of those things you just don’t do,” he said.
But Ball also testified about hearing Alex Murdaugh’s voice in a video recorded by Paul Murdaugh minutes before the killings at the kennels when Murdaugh repeatedly said he was never at the kennels that night. He also said he didn’t recognize the person Murdaugh was after the alleged financial crimes were uncovered.
For example, Murdaugh told police he wasn’t at his Colleton County home in the hours before the killings, but several witnesses said they heard his voice on video taken from the dog kennels there just minutes before his wife and son were shot. Their bodies were found near the kennels.
When lead prosecutor Creighton Waters asked Ball about his earlier testimony that he did not really know Murdaugh, Ball said, “Obviously, I did not.”
“I mean, had we known the things he was doing, we wouldn’t have been law partners,” he said.
SPECIAL SECTION: The Murdaugh Cases
If Murdaugh, 54, were to take the stand, it would allow him to explain some of the evidence prosecutors presented.
Murdaugh also could respond to his sister-in-law’s testimony that he didn’t appear scared in the weeks after the slayings even as other family members were worried that they, too, were potential targets.
Testifying also could come with risks.
Defendants who choose to do so sometimes give jurors evidence of their guilt.
For Murdaugh, he could open himself up to questions about the millions of dollars he allegedly stole from clients and others. Defense attorney Jim Griffin argued Wednesday morning that since this trial was about the murder charges, that should be the topic of questioning Murdaugh faces, not the financial crimes.
However, the state has argued that the financial crimes are relevant because they were a motive for the two killings. They allege Murdaugh committed the murders to delay the pending revelation of the financial crimes to buy himself time to replace missing money.
Murdaugh has maintained from the beginning that he had nothing to do with the killings.
He faces 30 years to life if convicted of murder.
Copyright 2023 WCSC. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.