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Alex Murdaugh juror: ‘We prayed’ before returning to courtroom with guilty verdict for murders

James was a juror in the Alex Murdaugh double murder trial. (Photo: Law&Crime)

James was a juror in the Alex Murdaugh double murder trial. (Photo: Law&Crime)

A juror in Alex Murdaugh’s double murder trial said he is secure in his decision following the guilty verdict in the six-week double murder trial watched around the world.

“We all, I think, were very good at looking at all of the evidence and not jumping to conclusions but rather taking all of the evidence and seeing where it led us,” James said.

James, who asked that his last name be withheld, is a 22-year-old construction manager around the same age as Paul Murdaugh when he and his mother, Maggie Murdaugh, were murdered on June 7, 2021.

James attended Clemson University and had heard the Murdaugh name following the boat crash that killed Mallory Beach in 2019. He said he didn’t know much about the family and hadn’t followed coverage about the murders. His brother is a Colleton County sheriff’s deputy who responded to Moselle the night of the murders and testified at the trial. However, he was not intimately involved in the investigation as SLED agents were. James said he was questioned by the state and the defense during voir dire about his law enforcement ties and the defense did not object to him sitting on the jury.

Wearing a U.S. Constitution tie that he borrowed from his father throughout the trial, James explained to the Law&Crime Network’s Angenette Levy how he and his fellow jurors prayed each day before testimony began. They also prayed before entering the courtroom to return their verdict. He believes God guided them.

The jurors were not allowed to take notes throughout the six-week trial. However, James said he and his fellow jurors wrote down questions they had on paper in the jury room during 15-minute breaks. Sometimes, those questions were answered during testimony in the trial. The unanswered questions were discussed in the jury room following an initial vote that had Murdaugh guilty 9-3.

“We did have a few that were not on the same page, so we did like an anonymous vote, in the beginning, to see where everybody was at and make sure everybody was on the same page,” James said. “Once we found that out, we kind of just opened the floor for anybody, whoever had questions, and then we would talk through those. We had the evidence in the other room.”

James said the jurors were asked whether or not they wanted to order dinner Thursday evening about 30 minutes before they took the second vote, leading to a unanimous guilty verdict. The jurors were still working through some of the questions they had compiled.

For example, James said some jurors were not familiar with firearms, so they didn’t understand how shell casings from the 300 Blackout rifle Paul Murdaugh used near the home with a friend in spring 2021 could be determined to come from the same firearm as shell casings from the crime scene without having the firearm for comparison.

The rifle used to kill Maggie Murdaugh has never been found. A firearms examiner testified that a shotgun that Alex Murdaugh had with him when Colleton County deputies arrived at the scene the night of the murders could not be ruled in or out as the weapon that killed Paul.

James called Paul’s kennel video a crucial piece of evidence. That video showed Paul taking a video of the tail of his friend’s dog, Cash, at the kennels. In the background, a hose can be heard spraying as Maggie says another dog, Bubba, has a bird in his mouth. Alex Murdaugh can be heard saying “Bubba” a few times to get the chicken away from him.

“I think it’s incredible timing on Paul’s part. I don’t think anyone would have ever known he was down there if it wasn’t for that video,” James said.

He added that he believed there were several pieces of evidence against Alex Murdaugh, but the kennel video solidified his belief that Alex killed Maggie and Paul. Another important piece of evidence for James was Alex’s words from the witness stand.

“I think that he’s good at being able to talk to people, and I think part of the way that he’s able to be so good at talking to people is that he’s convincing,” James said. “And I think whenever he’s convincing, he’s convincing himself as well. And I think he’s able to do that because he often meshes the truth with a lie.”

One thing James believed from Alex Murduagh: He loved Paul and Maggie.

Some jurors became visibly upset when graphic crime scene photos were displayed in court. Some photos showed blood on the feed room door and Paul Murdaugh’s brain lying beside his leg.

“It’s something that’s important to be seen for Paul and Maggie,” James said. “I also think that regardless, this is an incredibly difficult time for the family. And I hate it for all of them.”

Judge Clifton Newman sentenced Alex Murdaugh to two consecutive life sentences Friday for the murders of Maggie and Paul. Alex Murdaugh told judge Newman, “I’m innocent.”

His defense team plans to appeal.

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Angenette Levy is a correspondent and host for the Law&Crime Network. Angenette has worked in newsrooms in Green Bay, Wisconsin and Cincinnati, Ohio. She has covered a number of high-profile criminal cases in both state and federal courts throughout her career including the trials of Steven Avery, Brooke “Skylar” Richardson and most recently the trials of Kyle Rittenhouse and former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. She was nominated for an Emmy in 2015 for a story she covered in which she found a missing toddler who was the subject of an Amber Alert. Angenette is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati.