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(NEW YORK) — The jury in the double murder trial of disgraced South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh — who is accused of killing his wife and younger son at the family’s property in 2021 — will travel to the site of the brutal killings on Wednesday ahead of closing arguments.
The bodies of Margaret Murdaugh, 52, and Paul Murdaugh, 22, were found dead from multiple gunshot wounds near the dog kennels at the family’s estate Moselle in June 2021, authorities said.
Alex Murdaugh, 54, who called 911 to report the discovery, was charged with their murders 13 months later.
The defense argued that it would be useful for the jury to visit the 1,772-acre hunting estate in Islandton to get a sense of the space in which the killings took place.
“You just can’t really appreciate the spatial issues without actually seeing them,” defense attorney Richard Harpootlian told the court on Monday.
Prosecutors had argued against the visit to Moselle, given that the property has changed in the 20 months since the killings, but Judge Clifton Newman ruled in favor of the defense on Monday.
The jurors are slated to travel to the property, which is under contract for $3.9 million, Wednesday morning amid tight security. No questions can be asked and no talking will be allowed on the trip. The judge has warned them that some things have changed on the property since the crime occurred.
Following the trip, court is expected to resume around 11 a.m., at which point the attorneys will argue charges for how the jury will be instructed to deliberate.
Once those rules are established, closing arguments will take place, then the judge will charge the jury before deliberations into the high-profile case begin.
Over the past nearly six weeks, the jury has heard from over 60 witnesses called by state prosecutors, who have argued that Alex Murdaugh killed his wife and son to gain sympathy and distract from his financial problems.
Prosecutors have focused on footage taken from Paul Murdaugh’s cellphone the night of the murders, including a video taken at the kennels several minutes before the victims were believed to be killed that investigators said has Alex Murdaugh talking in the background. Alex Murdaugh told investigators early in the case that he was not down by the kennels that night and had last seen his wife and son at dinner before finding bodies upon returning home from visiting his mother.
The defense has called 14 witnesses, including Alex Murdaugh himself, who during hours of at-times emotional testimony admitted to stealing from his clients and lying to investigators about his whereabouts the night of the murders but repeatedly denied fatally shooting his wife and son.
The defense has argued that police ignored the possibility that anyone else could have killed them and called experts who said investigators did not adequately examine the crime scene. On Monday, in one of their last witnesses before resting, the defense brought a crime scene expert to the stand who said he believed the killings were likely committed by two people.
Before resting on Tuesday, prosecutors brought forward experts to dispute some of the defense witnesses’ theories on how the shootings occurred and called former Murdaugh law partner Ronnie Crosby to the stand to discuss Alex Murdaugh’s tactics as a trial attorney.
“You asked me what kind of lawyer Alex was, and I told you he was a good lawyer,” Crosby said. “One of the things that I think I explained to you was that he was of a theatrical type presence in the courtroom and he could get very emotional doing closing arguments in front of a jury.”
Alex Murdaugh faces 30 years to life in prison without parole if convicted of the killings, for which he has pleaded not guilty.
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