Evidentiary Issues in the Alex Murdaugh Case

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July 25
Thursday, July 25, 2024
3:00PM - 4:00PM Eastern Time (EDT)

About This Course

This CLE course will review the evidentiary issues in the Alex Murdaugh case. In this case, a South Carolina jury convicted Murdaugh of murdering his wife and son. The prosecution had alleged that the defendant killed his family members for two reasons, primarily. First, the People claimed that the defendant killed his son, Paul, because Paul was the alleged wrongdoer (along with Alex, due to negligent entrustment) in litigation resulting from Paul’s driving the family boat while drunk, killing Mallory Beach, a passenger on the boat. If Paul died, the defendant likely surmised that, the litigation could have had a more limited effect on Alex’s liability. And second, the People asserted that the defendant killed his wife, Maggie, because he was hiding his financial crimes from his wife—the very crimes would become evident shortly in litigation. The course will highlight the evidence as well as guilty verdicts, pleas, and sentences Murdaugh received in the state murder and financial fraud cases (2023) and the federal financial crime case (2024). The evidentiary issues concern: • Circumstantial and scientific evidence, and expert testimony. The court allowed circumstantial evidence of the murder, consisting of the crime scene, which contained the location of the bodies in the gun room at Alex’s home, to show how Murdaugh could have murdered the two. Also present was evidence of the locations of where police found Maggie and Paul’s cell phones as well as their contents to show circumstantially that Alex was the killer. For instance, video from Alex’s cell phone, taken earlier on the day of the murder at the location of the murders, showed Alex there—at the dog kennel. An expert testified to the white t-shirt that Alex wore was fresh after the murders. A housekeeper testified that she saw Alex earlier that day wearing different clothes, which police never found. Police later found a large blue rain jacket, which they seized from Murdaugh’s parents’ house, which tested positive for gunshot residue. Experts included those in the areas of ballistics, DNA, and pathology. • Character evidence—prior bad acts. The trial court admitted Alex’s prior financial crimes as well as evidence in the Mallory Beach boating matter to show the defendant’s motive and intent in committing the murders in the murder case. • Hearsay evidence and admissions and impeachment by prior inconsistent statements. Alex admitted that he lied to investigators at the scene, when he told them that he had not been at the dog kennels earlier that day, and Paul’s cell phone video, which showed the defendant’s presence at the kennels that day, which ultimately impeached Murdaugh.

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