As a bystander outside the Colleton County Courthouse waved a sign reading “Justice Is Coming Soon,” the State of South Carolina drove the final nails into its double murder case – and perhaps its coffin of criminal justice – against the accused family killer Alex Murdaugh.
After both sides rested their primary cases earlier in a nearly six-week legal marathon that included more than 70 witnesses, the State was allowed to call several “reply” witnesses in a final rebuttal before closing arguments began.
In addition to disputing scientific testimony from Murdaugh’s expert witnesses, these final State witnesses served to hammer home and reinforce a point prosecutors have made time and again throughout the trial: Murdaugh, after demonstrating a pattern of deceit, lies, manipulation and callous disregard for others during a decade-long crime spree, also lied to the police early and often throughout this criminal investigation and prosecution.
Murdaugh’s former law partner Mark Ball added to the pile of apparent Murdaugh lies. Early in the trial, prosecutors disputed claims that Murdaugh checked for signs of life on both victims, his wife, Maggie, and son, Paul, because he did not have any blood on his hands, clothes, or shoes – and he called 911 less than 20 seconds after arriving at the scene.
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Ball tested that Murdaugh told him the same story – but inconsistently. First, Ball recalled, Murdaugh told him he went to Maggie’s body, then Paul’s, and attempted to roll his son over. At a later date, Murdaugh reportedly told the Ball that he went to Paul first, and then to Maggie.
Former Hampton County Sheriff TC Smalls also took the stand and disputed one of Murdaugh’s claims. Last week, in response to Murdaugh’s claim that he lied to state police because he was paranoid and suspicious of them, lead prosecutor Creighton Waters asked Murdaugh about his carrying of a 14th Circuit Solicitor’s badge and having blue emergency lights on one of his vehicles.
Murdaugh then tested that he had talked to several sheriffs, including the Hampton County Sheriff, and got permission to install the blue lights. But on the stand Tuesday Smalls said that he had never had such a conversation with Murdaugh, nor was he aware of anyone in his department doing so.
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Murdaugh’s former law partner Ronnie Crosby tested for a second time about Murdaugh repeatedly lying and deceiving clients that he later stole from, then added that the accused, disbarred lawyer had been known for using emotion in his closing arguments to win over or possibly manipulate a jury into giving the verdict he wanted. He described Murdaugh as having a “very theatrical presence” in the courtroom.
When Murdaugh was on the stand last week, he often looked straight at the jury members and openly wept when talking about how he loved his family and would never hurt them.
Other expert witnesses for the State were called to testify for a second time, including Medical University of South Carolina pathologist Dr. Ellen Riemer, who conducted the autopsy on the shooting victims. After the defense put two witnesses on the stand to dispute her findings, Riemer stood her ground and was stuck by her report.
The State is expected to call one more expert witness after the lunch recess.
Tuesday am updates in the Alex Murdaugh trial
On Tuesday, the State plans to call no more than five witnesses in “reply,” or rebuttal, of testimony and evidence presented by the defense in the Alex Murdaugh double murder trial.
Court officials say that these witnesses could include Colleton County Coroner Richard Harvey, and Murdaugh’s former law partners Ronnie Crosby and Mark Ball, all of whom were previously tested.
Murdaugh, 54, is charged with murder in the deaths of his wife, Maggie, 52, and their 22-year-old son, Paul, but has steadfastly denied any involvement. He faces 30 years to life in prison if convicted.
Lead prosecutor Creighton Waters said he expects to wrap up the reply by Tuesday afternoon, although Murdaugh attorney Richard Harpootlian said he was skeptical of such a quick time estimate given the State’s pattern of presenting lengthy testimony during the five previous weeks of the trial.
Once the reply stage is completed, the jury is expected to visit the crime scene at Moselle, and then begins hearing closing arguments from both sides, which could take most of a full day.
The jury could be deliberating as early as Thursday, estimate court officials.
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This article originally appeared on Greenville News: Murdaugh trial live stream, updates: State calling rebuttal witnesses