WHAT TO EXPECT: Alex Murdaugh trial to begin Monday

Published: Jan. 22, 2023 at 9:55 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 22, 2023 at 3:58 PM EST
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WALTERBORO, S.C. (WCSC) - Former Lowcountry attorney Alex Murdaugh’s highly-anticipated murder trial will begin with jury selection Monday morning in Walterboro.

A Colleton County grand jury indicted Murdaugh on two counts of murder and two counts of possessing a firearm during the commission of a violent crime in the June 7, 2021, shooting deaths of his wife, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh and their youngest son, 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh. The indictments allege he allegedly used two different weapons, a rifle on his wife and a shotgun on his son.

He called 911 that night, telling investigators he had arrived at the family’s hunting property in the rural Colleton County community of Islandton and discovered the bodies.

Murdaugh pleaded not guilty to those charges and has maintained his innocence.

SPECIAL SECTION: The Murdaugh Cases

While most murder trials in South Carolina typically last about a week, the Murdaugh trial is expected to last about three times that long. Charleston-area attorney Mark Peper said that’s because both sides want to get it right the first time.

Jury selection alone could last much of the first week.

Judge Clifton Newman issued an order in December that the names and any identifying information about jurors who will serve in the trial cannot be disclosed.

The order states jurors would be identified by juror number only.

In early December, both the prosecution and defense met in Richland County for a pretrial hearing to decide on a questionnaire for potential jurors.

Peper said both sides will seek impartial jurors by questioning the jury pool extensively.

“How do you know the family? What relationships, if any, have you had? How do you feel about it if you read something, does that automatically make them guilty?” Peper said.

Prosecutors have said they would not seek the death penalty if Murdaugh was convicted of the murder charges. Instead, the state would seek life in prison.

Walterboro prepares for spotlight, influx of visitors

Walterboro, a city of about 5,400, and the county seat of Colleton County will serve as the center of the trial at the Colleton County Courthouse. The trial is attracting attention from across the nation and even around the world.

The city is expecting an influx of up to 1,500 people, Walterboro Director of Tourism Scott Grooms said.

Everybody has pretty much filled up, they’re renting houses in the area for not only media for the trial, but also court personnel, anybody who’s happened to come into town,” he said.

One bed and breakfast owner said she received a call from someone in Paris seeking assistance.

Walterboro will shut down North Walker Street, which is adjacent to the courthouse, during the trial. No other streets were expected to be closed.

Food trucks will serve the extra visitors near the courthouse.

How to watch: See live coverage of the trial

Live 5 News will carry live coverage from the courtroom as the court permits online at Live5News.com, in the Live 5 News app, which is available free to download for your device and on the streaming TV app Live 5+, which is available on Roku, Amazon Fire and Apple TV.

You can also follow developments as they happen in a live blog.

The trial is expected to last through Feb. 10, according to court documents.