The judge overseeing the Alex Murdaugh murder trial excoriated defense attorneys on Thursday morning for failing to object in the correct format the day before.
The defendant’s legal team called the state’s line of questioning on alleged financial improprieties “totally improper,” but in the Colleton County court, that’s not enough to sustain such a complaint.
On Wednesday afternoon, prosecution witness and longtime Murdaugh family friend Rogan Gibson was subject to cross-examination by defense attorney Jim Griffin. The witness had been called by the state to testify that he heard the voices of Alex Murdaugh and Margaret “Maggie” Murdaugh in a Snapchat video his friend Paul Murdaugh sent him minutes before the murders.
“Can you think of any circumstance that you can envision, knowing them as you do, where Alex would brutally murder Paul and Maggie?” Griffin asked Gibson near the end of cross-examination.
“Not that I can think of,” Gibson replied.
Will Loving, another longtime friend of Paul Murdaugh, also took the stand. He also testified, in the same way, about the voices in the Snapchat video. The witness said, in his opinion, Paul Murdaugh was “the apple of his eye,” referring to the defendant.
Near the end of Loving’s testimony, lead prosecutor Creighton Waters asked him about any apparent fractures in Alex and Maggie Murdaugh’s relationship. He said there were none he knew of. Then, the prosecutor asked a series of rapid-fire financial questions.
Waters got eight questions in before the defense interrupted.
“Do you know anything at all about him being confronted on June 7, 2021, about,” the prosecutor said of the defendant as Griffin cut him off and said: “Your honor, I’m going to object.”
“Finish the question,” Newman replied.
Waters obliged and asked: “Did you know anything about him being confronted on the morning of June 7, 2021, about $792,000 of missing fees from his law firm?”
“Objection your honor,” Griffin said. “Totally improper.”
“Objection is overruled,” the judge said.
In an evidentiary hearing without jurors present at the Colleton County courthouse on Thursday morning, the judge explained in detail why he overruled the objection in the first place.
Judge Newman tells the defense their objection yesterday was not a legal objection. Defense objected with this is “totally inappropriate”. Judge reminds the defense how objections are to be made….#AlexMurdaugh pic.twitter.com/ZzpxxTS15u
— Cathy Russon (@cathyrusson) February 2, 2023
“The objection was ‘totally inappropriate,'” Judge Clifton Newman said. “As the court laid out and reviewed with the parties early in the trial, that objections should be made, and the legal basis stated. An objection of ‘totally inappropriate’ is, in the words of Judge Joe Henderson, ‘in effect, no objection at all.’ That’s not a legal basis for an objection.”
Newman also ruled that Griffin’s question to Gibson about the general state of the Murdaugh family – as opposed to a question about specific events – turned him into a good character witness which “opened the door for the state to respond” with bad character questions about Alex Murdaugh.
The judge also said the boating accident that killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach as a possible motive for someone else to have killed his family, also “opened the door for the state to address that issue.”
The judge did not broadly rule, however, on whether Alex Murdaugh’s alleged financial crimes can be used by the state to make their case. Those allegations are the subject of a separate evidentiary hearing that will continue Friday.
[image via screengrab/Law&Crime Network]
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