Buster Murdaugh takes stand in father’s defense

Published: Feb. 21, 2023 at 11:57 AM EST|Updated: Feb. 21, 2023 at 5:56 PM EST
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COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WTOC) - Tuesday marks day 21 in the Murdaugh double murder trial.

Alex Murdaugh is accused of killing his wife Maggie and son Paul.

The defense began calling witnesses Tuesday morning. The first witness they called was Alex’s oldest son Buster Murdaugh.

Alex could be seen smiling from his seat as Buster recalled some of the family’s time on the Moselle property together.

Buster was asked about cellphone reception on the property and Alex’s opioid addiction, which he says he was aware of. Defense attorney Jim Griffin also asked him if Alex was patient with him and Paul and if he was ever violent.

“How did your family handle disputes,” asked defense attorney Jim Griffin.

“Like adults, pretty civilly, you know? Talked about it, stuff like that. It just depends on the dispute too. Like when I was a kid I’d get spanked, stuff like that. That’s not really a disagreement,” Said Buster Murdaugh.

“When you were a teenager and college aged, any reprimands or disputes you gotten into with your father? Was it all civil,” asked Griffin.

“Definitely civil,” said Murdaugh.

“Did your father show patience with you and your brother,” asked Griffin.

“Yes sir, he would,” said Murdaugh.

“Was there ever any violence in the family,” asked Griffin.

“No sir,” said Murdaugh.

At one point they called back a law enforcement interview with Alex played by the state a few weeks ago, asking Buster to identify what his father is saying in the tape.

The tape said “It’s just so bad, I/they did him so bad.”

“What’d your dad say?” asked Griffin.

“He said they did him so... they did him so bad.” said Murdaugh.

“Is that the first time you heard him say they did him so bad?” asked Griffin.

“No sir.” said Murdaugh.

“When was the first time you heard him say they did him so bad?” asked Griffin.

“First time I heard him say that was the night that I went down to Moselle, the night of June 7th.” said Murdaugh.

The state claims Alex’s words were “I” did him so bad.

After Buster’s testimony, the defense continued to call witnesses trying to tell a different version of this story. Next up, a forensic engineer who says the murderer was most likely between 5′2 and 5′4 based on his reconstruction of the shooting. The defense, as they did last week, pointing out Alex is around 6′4.

“Could you say to a degree of engineering certainty more probably than not that Alex Murdaugh on the night of June 7th did not fire that shot into the quail pen?” asked defense attorney Dick Harpootlian.

“In my opinion it’s very unlikely that he fired that shot.” said forensic engineer Michael Sutton.

In response, the prosecution looking to poke holes in the witness’ credibility to make such claims.

“Have you had any formal training in pathology?” asked state prosecutor David Fernandez.

“No.” said Sutton.

“Have you had any formal training in firearms or firearms... how they work?” asked Fernandez.

“No.” said Sutton.

No matter his credentials, Sutton was qualified as an expert witness and the defense used him to bring up a new argument suggesting Alex wouldn’t have been able to hear the gun shots from the house where they claim he was napping at the time of the murders. Sutton fired guns on the property to test how far the sound traveled.

“You could barely hear it, we were all listening for it so if you were in the house even if you were walking around you wouldn’t hear that. I could barely hear it and I was listening for it,” said Sutton.

Before that last answer, there a recording was played in court of that witness’s gunshot sound test. He says a member of his team fired a similar rifle to the one that killed Maggie down near the kennels while he was in the house with the recording device.

Court will resume Wednesday. Defense attorney Jim Griffin says the defense hopes to wrap by late Friday.

Before calling witnesses this morning, another juror did have to be replaced due to not feeling well and Judge Clifton Newman also admonished Jim Griffin for retweeting a news article that commented on the case.

Below is a timeline of the Murdaugh case: