Closing arguments start on Wednesday in the trial of Alex Murdaugh – the now-disbarred South Carolina lawyer charged with murdering his wife and son.
Mr Murdaugh, the 54-year-old descendant of an influential legal family in an area west of Charleston, has been charged with killing his wife Maggie, 52, and youngest son, Paul, 22, at dog kennels on their estate, known as Moselle, on the night of 7 June 2021.
Prosecutors have argued that Mr Murdaugh committed the murders in an effort to generate sympathy at a time when his life was collapsing amid allegations that he had stolen huge sums from clients and his law partners, partly to feed a drug habit.
Mr Murdaugh, who has said he had nothing to do with the murders, faces 30 years to life in prison if he is found guilty.
How can I watch the Alex Murdaugh trial?
After sitting through more than a month of testimony, jurors will visit the Murdaugh family estate for a “jury view” of the crime scene on Wednesday morning, before returning to the courtroom to hear final remarks from the prosecution and the defence.
“After the jury view you will return for closing arguments, then I will instruct you as to the law that you are to apply, then you will deliberate in an effort to reach a verdict,” Judge Clifton Newman told jurors before adjourning on Tuesday.
Judge Newman said he expected the jury would be back in court for closing arguments around 11am ET (4pm GMT).
Multiple outlets are streaming the trial live on YouTube, including the Law and Crime Network. You can find the stream here.
What is Alex Murdaugh accused of?
Mr Murdaugh called 911 on the evening of 7 June 2021, and said he’d found his son and wife dead when he returned home from a one-hour visit with his mother, who has dementia.
Authorities said Paul was shot twice with a shotgun, each round loaded with different size shot, while Maggie was struck with four or five bullets from a rifle. A crime scene report suggested both victims were shot in the head after initially being wounded near dog kennels on the Murdaughs’ sprawling rural property.
Prosecutors took more than a year to charge the disgraced lawyer with murder, but decided not to pursue the death penalty. Mr Murdaugh, who is also charged with about 100 counts of financial and other crimes, has adamantly denied any involvement in the killings.
Prosecutors, who contend Mr Murdaugh killed his wife and son to distract from his financial crimes, have not presented direct evidence against him.
They called 61 witnesses and introduced more than 550 pieces of evidence over 17 days of testimony – from descriptions of the brutality of the killings to details about bank records.
The weapons used to kill the victims have not been produced. But prosecutors did get one key piece of evidence that both showed Mr Murdaugh lied to police and put him at the kennels where his wife and son were shot just five minutes before investigators think they were killed because they stopped using their mobile phones.
It’s a video taken by Paul, locked in his phone for a year after the killings until federal agents could hack into it. Mr Murdaugh told the first police officer to arrive and every one after that he was never at the kennels, but his voice can be heard in the video.
“I did lie to them,” was one of the first things Mr Murdaugh said when he took the stand in his own defence, blaming paranoia about law enforcement because he was addicted to opiates and had a bottle of pills in his pocket when he was questioned.
“I would never hurt Maggie Murdaugh. I would never hurt Paul Murdaugh under any circumstances,” he also said on the stand.
Mr Murdaugh admitted repeatedly that he lied and stole millions of dollars from his clients and his law firm. “I took money that wasn’t mine. And I shouldn’t have done it. I hate the fact that I did it. I am embarrassed by it. I’m embarrassed for my son. I am embarrassed for my family,” he said.
The defence has called experts who said investigators didn’t dust for fingerprints, collect and test blood, or photograph evidence with the angles or clarity needed to study it properly later.
The defence also called an expert who testified the killings were likely to have required there to be two shooters because both Paul and Maggie appeared to be taken by surprise. They said their hands were not raised in defence and the shockwave, blood and gore after Paul was shot in the head at close range with a shotgun likely would have stunned the shooter for at least several seconds, giving Maggie time to run away.