BLOG: Day 22: Murdaugh attorneys seek to limit cross-examination if client testifies

Published: Feb. 22, 2023 at 3:00 AM EST|Updated: Feb. 22, 2023 at 5:17 PM EST
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WALTERBORO, S.C. (WCSC) - A former law partner of Alex Murdaugh said he was worried about Murdaugh’s mental health after the murders of his 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.

Mark Ball testified that after murders Murdaugh would often be crying when Ball walked by his office adding that he was in no shape to perform legal work.

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 when he arrived at Murdaugh’s Colleton County hunting property on the night of June 7, 2021, nothing was blocked off around the crime scene.

Ball said that while he had walked around the kennels and shed area others walked directly through the crime scene. The defense has long argued a lack of preservation of evidence at the scene.

Ball said it wasn’t until investigators from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division arrived that they were asked to go to the house.

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.

Buster Murdaugh testified in his father’s defense Tuesday that he heard “they” in the video.

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.

“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.”

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.

Buster takes stand Tuesday

During Tuesday’s testimony, the first full day of defense witnesses, Murdaugh’s surviving son, Buster, took the stand. The defense then called a forensic engineer who testified about his findings about the crime scene and a possible gunman.

But court began on Tuesday with word that another juror had been dismissed because of a medical issue.

That leaves 12 jurors and two alternates remaining.

READ RECAP: Alex Murdaugh was ‘destroyed’, ‘heartbroken’ after murders, surviving son says

Buster Murdaugh, 26, said the family was close and spoke to each other every day. While he couldn’t remember the details of most of the phone calls he had with his family on June 7, 2021, the day his mother, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh, and his younger brother, 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh, were gunned down, he did remember a call at 9:10 p.m. that night with his dad who was driving to visit his ailing mother.

The younger Murdaugh said his father sounded “normal” during that call. But he also described a later phone call in which Alex Murdaugh informed Buster of the shooting and then seeing his father when Buster and his girlfriend eventually arrived at the scene hours later.

“His demeanor was destroyed. I mean he was destroyed. He was heartbroken,” Buster Murdaugh said. “I walked in the door and saw him and um, gave him a hug and, just broken down.”

READ MORE: The Murdaugh Cases

While the state did not offer many questions during his cross-examination, it was a different story for the defense’s second witness, forensic engineer Mike Sutton.

Sutton recreated the crime scene at Moselle, the family’s rural hunting property, determining that it would be near impossible to hear shots fired at the kennels if someone were to be at the main house, even when everything was quiet.

He also estimated the shooter could not be more than 5-feet, 4-inches tall.

When defense attorney Dick Harpootlian asked Sutton about whether Alex Murdaugh could have been the gunman, Sutton testified that he couldn’t be.

Prosecutors, who presented several of its their own experts, questioned Sutton’s credentials and the methods with which he came to his conclusions.

It is still not clear whether the defense will call Alex Murdaugh himself to the stand.