Stage set for closing arguments in Murdaugh murder trial
WALTERBORO, S.C. (WCSC) - Prosecutors in the Alex Murdaugh murder trial used their rebuttal case to go after testimonies from the defense’s experts and even the defendant himself.
Murdaugh, the disbarred Lowcountry attorney, is accused in the June 7, 2021, murders of his wife, Maggie; and their son, Paul.
Prosecutors brought five witnesses back and had one new witness.
Dr. Kenneth Kinsey was the final witness called by prosecutors before they rested their rebuttal case.
Kinsey’s testimony took aim at a couple of defense witnesses that brought differing theories.
Focusing on angles and the theory from Michael Sutton that the shooter had to be between 5 feet, 2 inches, and 5 feet, 4 inches, Kinsey testified that the shooter could have been any size and still fired from the angles and trajectory in Sutton’s report.
Kinsey demonstrated kneeling, bending and changing heights while wielding a dowel rod as a prop to show how the same angle could be achieved at each point.
“In your professional opinion, can you exclude a 6-foot-4 defendant like Alex Murdaugh, or anyone for that matter at that height, from shooting that shotgun at that angle?” Attorney General Alan Wilson said.
“Absolutely not,” Kinsey said.
Kinsey testified the crime scene was likely dynamic and chaotic. He said the shooter and Maggie Murdaugh were both moving.
When given the opportunity to review the casings found around Maggie Murdaugh’s body and the weathered shells found elsewhere on the property, Kinsey said he believed it was a family-owned rifle used to kill her.
Tim Palmbach’s opinion on the fatal shot to Paul Murdaugh was also questioned.
Kinsey and Wilson demonstrated the way Kinsey interpreted Palmbach’s testimony with Wilson holding a shotgun and moving behind Kinsey to demonstrate a contact shotgun blast to the back of the head.
“I think the theory’s preposterous in my opinion,” Kinsey said.
While refuting the idea, Kinsey testified that the pellet found in the top of the door frame and the pellet damage to the front of the feed room door would not be possible if the gun had been fired at a downward angle.
The force from the shot and the weight of the steel pellets would not allow the pellets to change direction, he said.
Kinsey told jurors there was no indication of high-velocity blood spatter on the floor only medium-velocity spatter consistent with blood going up and coming back down.
When asked about the defense’s theory that two shooters were involved, Kinsey said he couldn’t rule it out, but it also couldn’t be the only option.
Dr. Ellen Riemer, the pathologist who performed the autopsies on Maggie and Paul Murdaugh, was called back to the stand to defend her position on the fatal shots to Maggie and Paul.
Riemer reiterated that she believed the fatal shot to Paul Murdaugh traveled at an upward angle from the shoulder through the head and said if the wound had been a contact wound to the back of his head it would have done considerably more damage.
“When we have the worst gas expansion, the entire face, he would not have had a face left,” Riemer said. “I know what you saw was awful, and it was absolutely awful. But the damage would have been a lot worse.”
Dick Harpootlian pressed Riemer during cross-examination.
Harpootlian raised questions about Riemer not shaving Paul Murdaugh’s head or taking an x-ray of his brain.
Riemer said she didn’t need to shave his head once the conclusion was made the shot was fired from below and she didn’t feel the need to x-ray his brain but wished she had, adding: “hindsight is 20/20.”
Prosecutors also worked to oust lies from Murdaugh’s own testimony by calling back two former law partners and a retired Hampton County sheriff.
Sheriff T.C. Smalls retired in December after nearly 40 years in law enforcement with nearly half being Hampton County sheriff.
Smalls was asked about talking to Murdaugh about installing blue lights on his personal car. Murdaugh had testified that several sheriffs and law enforcement had known and approved of the addition.
“No sir, I never had a conversation with Alex Murdaugh,” Smalls said. “Matter of fact, I never had a conversation with anyone in my 39 years about installing blue lights in their personal vehicle.”
Smalls also testified that he never spoke with Murdaugh about threats being made to his family after the 2019 boat crash.
Former partner Ronnie Crosby recalled trying a case with Murdaugh inside the Colleton County courthouse.
Crosby said Murdaugh was a good lawyer with a “theatrical” presence like his father and grandfather.
Things got a little heated between Crosby and Harpootlian during cross-examination when Harpootlian asked if Crosby was angry with Murdaugh and if Murdaugh’s actions had influenced his testimony.
“Mr. Harpootlian, I came to the scene of these murders to support my partner,” Crosby said. “I was there. I’ve seen things that haven’t been talked about in this courtroom. I was there. I love Paul very much. I thought I knew who Alex was. I did not. and it’s hard. You might not understand. It’s hard to walk around with anger and hard to even walk around with it with someone you didn’t know or didn’t understand.”
SPECIAL SECTION: The Murdaugh Cases
Crosby would go on to say he wasn’t angry with Murdaugh anymore, he just felt nothing.
“I didn’t say I forgave him,” Crosby said. “I said I had no feelings. And I had to work on that Mr. Harpootlian.”
Mark Ball was also called back to the stand.
He testified that the first time he heard Murdaugh say he was at the kennels was during his testimony. He testified hearing Murdaugh say he had checked the bodies of Maggie and Paul before calling 911.
It was late afternoon when the state rested its rebuttal case.
Judge Clifton Newman decided against taking the jurors to the Moselle property on Tuesday so they will go Wednesday morning before closing arguments begin.
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