Two jurors dismissed after testing positive for COVID-19

Published: Feb. 13, 2023 at 10:02 AM EST|Updated: Feb. 13, 2023 at 1:53 PM EST
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COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WTOC) - The double murder trial against Alex Murdaugh nearly ground to a halt Monday.

“We have some matters with the jury, two jurors have tested positive for COVID,” Judge Hon. Cliffton Newman said.

Judge Cliffton Newman explaining those two jurors have been excused and replaced by two of the alternate jurors. That leaves the trial with 15 total jurors remaining, 3 of them being alternates but that could dwindle in the coming days.

The judge says a doctor has been brought in and tested all remaining jurors.

As of now, the remaining 15 tested negative, but the doctor says they should be tested again on Wednesday to double check. If just four more jurors test positive, there will be fewer than the required number of 12 jurors left putting the trial in jeopardy.

“In talking with the defense as we first heard about these issues, I think we were both in agreement that we would rather, if forced to, to delay a little bit rather than end up with a mistrial and be unable to continue at all,” State Prosecutor Creighton Waters said.

The state there explaining both sides were willing to put a pause on court until Wednesday’s test results, if the judge was willing to approve a delay but Judge Newman said he wanted to keep going.

“We have no way of knowing, we just have to take precautions as we all do as we navigate through life in this period of time.”

While telling both sides this trial will continue on schedule, judge Newman encouraged the jurors to wear masks.

As they first walked in, only two of them were without masks, but as testimony got under way 9 of the 15 jurors were mask less.

As an additional note, not a single member of the state or defense wore a mask for the majority of the day’s morning session.

It was a day of expert witnesses called by the state, as SLED agents came up one after the other to talk about DNA analysis.

The testimony was tedious and detail heavy, with one of the standout moments coming in the defense’s cross examination about a shirt that the state says Alex Murdaugh was wearing the night of the murders.

“For all of those tests the result was negative,” said Sarah Zapata, a DNA Analyst with SLED

“So we’re 0-74 in detecting any blood here?” asked defense attorney Phil Barber.

“The result was negative.”

“Is it fair to say that there was no human blood on the t-shirt?”

“Like I said earlier the test that I performed was negative for human blood.”

We finished the day with the forensic pathologist going over the autopsies she completed on Maggie and Paul Murdaugh.

Court ended today and will resume tomorrow at 9:30 a.m.