Expert points out perceived flaws in Murdaugh investigation
WALTERBORO, S.C. (WCSC) - An expert for Alex Murdaugh’s defense team took the stand Wednesday to point out flaws in the investigation of the murders of Murdaugh’s wife and youngest son.
The disbarred Lowcountry attorney is charged with gunning down his wife, Maggie; and their youngest son, Paul at the family’s hunting property on Moselle Road in rural Colleton County back on June 7, 2021.
“Much more could’ve been done,” Kenneth Zercie said.
Zercie pointed out deficiencies in the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and Colleton County Sheriff’s Office investigation and evidence preservation on the night of the murders.
In looking at body camera footage from the night of the murders, Zercie pointed out the lack of shoe coverings by law enforcement walking through the feed room.
Zercie said he would not have covered Paul Murdaugh’s body outside of the feed room but, because they did, investigators should have tested the sheet for trace evidence. He said the reports he read indicated that neither the sheet or Paul Murdaugh’s clothing were collected and tested.
In cross-examination, Zercie was asked if he was paid to testify that SLED and the sheriff’s office did a bad job.
“They may have done the best job they could,” Zercie said.
Overall, Zercie said he agreed with the conclusions in the report made by Agent Melinda Worley adding that the photos used to make the report were inadequate for further analysis. He said he had no problems with her examination based on the limitations placed on her.
The defense continued to press their opinion that the investigation was inadequate by calling Micah Sturgis.
Sturgis, the director of digital forensics for Barefoot Professional Investigations, told the jury that Maggie Murdaugh’s phone had GPS data from June 9, 2021, in the extraction records.
Sturgis said that possible data from June 7 could have been overridden because of that.
The defense seemingly tried to use the data from Maggie Murdaugh’s phone and Alex Murdaugh’s Chevy Suburban to show that it wasn’t possible for her phone to have been thrown from his vehicle.
Sturgis testified that it took very little motion to activate the backlight on a cell phone.
Data shows that Maggie Murdaugh’s phone did not light up after 9:07 p.m.
According to GPS data from Murdaugh’s Suburban, he passed where the phone was later located at 9:08 p.m.
Earlier Wednesday, jurors heard a partner at Murdaugh’s former law firm testify that multiple people walked through the crime scene on the night of the murders.
Mark Ball told jurors he also saw water dripping onto Paul Murdaugh’s body from the rain and even parts of his skull on the ground.
Ball said it wasn’t until SLED investigators arrived that they were asked to go to the house.
The defense asked Ball if he had concerns about going to the house that night.
“I did. It was twofold,” Ball said. “One, two people had been gunned down and you know is it safe? So safety is one concern and two is that part of what went on here?”
At the house, Ball said he and a couple of other partners cleaned up the kitchen, including placing the pots from the stove into the refrigerator. Murdaugh’s housekeeper had testified that’s where she found them the next day and it was unusual for them to not be left on the stove until the next day.
In cross-examination, Ball said Murdaugh told him and others that he never went to the kennels that night. Ball said he had heard the voices on the video taken at the kennels at 8:44 p.m. that night and was sure it was Alex Murdaugh’s voice he heard.
Ball also testified that Murdaugh had used the phrase, “they did them so bad” multiple times that night.
Prosecutors have argued that Murdaugh said “I did them so bad” in a recorded interview with law enforcement on the night of the murders.
Ball also testified to Murdaugh’s mental state after the murders saying he would find him crying in his office when he walked by.
Ball said when he received the Sept. 4, 2021, phone call about the roadside shooting incident he thought Murdaugh had killed himself.
Ball said it was the day after Murdaugh had been confronted about stealing funds from the law firm and forced to resign so Murdaugh had lost two family members and his job in a matter of months.
Ball said he had been working with others at the firm to repay clients Murdaugh allegedly defrauded.
“He’s torn down an entire legacy,” Ball said. A law firm.”
Ball said the whole situation at the law firm now known as Parker Law Group made him angry.
READ MORE: The Murdaugh Cases
“I’m mad as hell,” Ball said. “You don’t know how mad I am. On the other hand, I’m not saying that because he did that he did what he’s been accused of.”
Ball testified to the jury that Murdaugh was “cunning” and wasn’t good at following the rules. He said Murdaugh had tricked everybody at the firm for years.
Alex Murdaugh to testify?
Before the jury was brought into court Wednesday morning, defense attorney Jim Griffin dangled the possibility of Murdaugh taking the stand in his own defense.
Griffin asked for the court to rule that Murdaugh would only have to answer questions related to the murder charges and none of the other crimes Murdaugh has been charged with.
Judge Clifton Newman said he would not issue an advance ruling on what would be allowed during cross examination.
“For the court to issue some blanket order limiting the scope of cross-examination, that’s unheard of to me,” Newman said.
The defense has not committed to Murdaugh testifying in his own defense but has said they expect to rest their case by Friday.
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