Skip to main content

Defense rests in Alex Murdaugh double murder trial – Day 23


Jurors returned to the Colleton County Courthouse on Monday morning as Alex Murdaugh‘s defense team is set to rest their case to begin the final week of his trial on double murder charges for allegedly killing his wife and son at the family’s hunting lodge in June 2021.

The 54-year-old disgraced legal scion – disbarred soon after murder allegations and various alleged financial improprieties came to light – is accused of shooting and killing his wife, Margaret “Maggie” Murdaugh, 52, and their youngest son Paul Murdaugh, 22.

The final handful of witnesses set to be presented by attorneys Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin will come on the heels of the defendant’s own rare decision to take the stand in his own defense – performance that elicited mixed reviews from legal experts.

Last week, lead prosecutor Creighton Waters spent considerable time and energy seeking to establish that Alex Murdaugh came from a “prominent” legal family in the Lowcountry region and that he was a “successful” lawyer. These suggestions produced a palpable amount of pushback from the defendant over the choice of words used to describe his esteem in the community and how well he plied his trade.

“I’m not sure about your adjective,” the defendant said at one point, while admitting he did make millions of dollars winning and settling cases, and “was the president of the trial lawyer’s association.”

“By those criteria I was successful, certainly, but I don’t feel successful sitting here today,” Murdaugh mused before the jury.

Additional Law&Crime coverage: ‘Horrible move’: criminal defense attorneys criticize Alex Murdaugh taking the stand in his defense

In a brief conference after jurors left last Friday, the defense signaled they would call four more witnesses to wrap things up. The state will likely want to cross-examine at least some of those expert witnesses. Closing arguments will follow soon after that.

When jurors were finally seated, they first heard from the defense’s 13th witness, forensic pathologist Dr. Jonathan Eisenstat. The upshot of his testimony was essentially an effort to discredit the work of state investigators – including their own, similar, witness Dr. Ellen Riemer.

The major dispute between Eisenstat and Riemer is that the defense witness determined Paul Murdaugh was likely killed by a contact blast – meaning the barrel of the shotgun was pressed against his head; Riemer believes the gun was roughly three feet away when it was fired.

Jurors later heard from a defense blood spatter expert.

Connecticut-based forensic scientist Timothy Palmbach testified that “a lot” of blood and brain matter would have covered the person who shot and killed Paul and Maggie Murdaugh that night.

The state initially intended for blood spatter analysis to be a major aspect of their case. The defense, however, successfully challenged the theories, credentials, and determinations of the expert relied upon for that analysis – and were allowed to mention the state’s failure in this regard when the defendant took the stand last week.

SEE ALSO: ‘That was a lie’: Alex Murdaugh notches significant victory with testimony about state’s failed ‘blood spatter’ claims

Palmbach later echoed the determination that Paul Murdaugh had to have been killed with the shotgun barrel pressed against his head.

Perhaps key to the defense’s efforts to create reasonable doubt in jurors’ minds is the theory that two shooters were responsible for the brutal Moselle murders on the night of June 7, 2021.

Near the end of his testimony, Palmbach said exactly that.

“My opinion is the totality of the evidence is more suggestive of a two-shooter scenario,” Palmbach testified.

After lunch, jurors heard from the defendant’s younger brother, John Marvin Murdaugh.

Just before 5:00 p.m. EST, the defense rested their case.

Join the discussion 

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime: