Prosecution calling witnesses for rebuttal in Murdaugh trial

Published: Feb. 28, 2023 at 12:42 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 28, 2023 at 5:14 PM EST
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COLLETON COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - The defense officially wrapped up their case Monday in the Murdaugh double murder trial.

Now that their case is over, the state has the opportunity to respond.

Judge Clifton Newman and defense attorney Dick Harpootlian were both surprised by the number of witnesses the state is planning to call.

Yesterday we heard they were planning to call around four people.

Tuesday morning we learned that number is now seven and many are people who have already testified.

Defense Attorney Dick Harpootlian objected several times to the number of witnesses the prosecution wanted to put on the stand.

“I mean this is a process that’s got to stop at some point. We’re gonna be here next week,” Harpootlian said.

The prosecution appealed to the judge that it was entitled to focus on specific issues presented by the defense that contradicted its witnesses.

Judge Clifton Newman says the witnesses will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Ronnie Crosby, Murdaugh’s former law partner, was the first witness called by prosecutor Creighton Waters.

Crosby talked about the last case he worked on with Alex.

“I handled a lot of cases with Alex. I believe the only case I tried with a jury with Alex was actually here in this courtroom,” Crosby said.

“Did you observe him being able to get emotional during that closing argument,” asked Prosecutor Creighton Waters.

“Yes, as a couple months ago when we talked and you asked me what kind of lawyer Alex was, and I told you he was a good lawyer, and one of the things I think I explained to you was that he was a theatrical type presence in the courtroom, and he could get very emotional doing closing arguments in front of a journey,” answered Crosby.

When being cross-examined by Harpootlian, Crosby said, “He was theatric. Much like his father and grandfather.”

Much of Harpootlian’s cross-examination involved him wanting to know if Crosby was mad at Murdaugh for stealing money from clients at the the firm they both worked at.

“Mr. Harpootlian, I came to the scene of these murders to support my partner. I was there. I’ve seen things that haven’t been talked about in this courtroom. I was there. I love Paul very much. I thought I knew who Alex was. I did not. and it’s hard. You might not understand. It’s hard to walk around with anger and hard to even walk around with it with someone you didn’t know or didn’t understand,” Crosby said.

Dr. Ellen Reimer was called up next. She is who performed the autopsies on Maggie and Paul.

Monday, a forensic pathology expert disagreed with some of her findings.

Dr. Riemer says certain things that led to her determination can only be found by direct examination. She also said she did not x-ray Paul’s brain, but wishes she had since she has done very few autopsies where the brain came out of the head.

Hampton County Sheriff T.C. Smalls was the next witness called to the stand. He was called by the prosecution because of Murdaugh’s testimony. Last week Alex Murdaugh said he had blue lights in his personal vehicle and Sheriff Smalls was aware of it because he asked him if he could do it.

Tuesday, Sheriff Smalls said the opposite on the stand. He said he had no knowledge of Murdaugh having blue lights in his personal car and they had never had a conversation about it.

He also said Murdaugh never came to him with concerns about threats made after the 2019 boat crash Paul was involved in.

Paul McManigal was back on the stand Tuesday, where he was not labeled as a cell phone forensics expert. He discussed tests he did over the weekend on an Iphone 11 pro, like what Maggie had, along with a similar operating system, to see if throwing it would activate the “raise to wake” feature.

He found throwing it like a frisbee would rarely turn the screen on, but when he raised it over his head and shook it, it was more likely to turn on. During cross-examination, Defense Attorney Phillips Barber asked McManigal why he didn’t record his observation, to which he said it didn’t occur to him.

Mark Ball, Murdaugh’s former partner and friend, was called by the state on Tuesday. He was a witness for the defense on Feb. 22. Ball testified Tuesday he thought Murdaugh had a good relationship with SLED.

Ball testified Murdaugh did have blue lights on a personal vehicle, he doesn’t remember when, but it was not at the time of the murders.

Ball says he learned Murdaugh was at the kennels the night of the murders for the first time during Murdaugh’s testimony. He also said he heard Murdaugh say he checked both bodies before calling 911. He says the order changed when Murdaugh would tell it, but it was before calling 911.

As both sides rest their cases, the jury still has to take a trip out to see the Moselle property.

The jury will head to the Moselle property Wednesday morning and try to leave the courthouse at or before 9:30 a.m.

The judge will be there with them and they’re only allowed to ask him questions. They cannot speak to anyone else including each other and the guards escorting them.

The scene will be secured by law enforcement ahead of time. The goal is to be back in court around 11 a.m.

From that point, we will go into closing arguments.

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