COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – State prosecutor Creighton Waters spoke for over three hours total Wednesday as he delivered his closing argument in the Alex Murdaugh murder trial.
Murdaugh is accused of killing his wife Margaret and youngest son Paul at their family property in June of 2021.
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The arguments came after the jury returned from a trip to the scene of the crime.
Waters focused on the four factors he said the jury should consider during their deliberations: motive, means, opportunity, and guilt of conscience.
He said Murdaugh’s motive for murdering his wife and son was the impending storm that Waters believes was about to come to a head. Murdaugh’s father was sick, he had an opioid addiction, he and Paul were being sued in the boat case, his financial crimes were about to be exposed, and his prominent lifestyle was about to crumble. Waters said shame was an “extraordinary provocation” for Murdaugh.
Waters said Murdaugh also had the means to do it. He claims family guns were used to kill Maggie and Paul, and that they showed no defensive wounds, meaning they likely knew their attacker. Waters proposed that as a lawyer, Murdaugh also had the knowledge to construct an alibi and manipulate the circumstances of the situation to support his narrative.
The opportunity was a small window between when Murdaugh, Paul, and Maggie can all be heard on the kennel video at 8:44 p.m. and when Maggie and Paul’s phones go silent at 8:49 p.m.
Murdaugh lied to investigators about being at the kennels that night, which Waters claims speaks to his consciousness of guilt. Waters repeatedly questioned what kind of father would lie about the last time he saw his wife and son alive.
Waters also said the lie was a testament to Murdaugh’s lack of credibility and urged the jury not to become the latest victims of Murdaugh’s lies.
Defense attorney Jim Griffin will deliver their side’s closing argument Thursday at 9:30 a.m. After that, the prosecution will have the chance to give a rebuttal argument. Once arguments conclude, the jury will be charged and deliberations could begin. If the jury does not reach a verdict by Friday, deliberations could spill over into the weekend. A decision has not yet been made on whether the jury will be sequestered.
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4:50 p.m. – The state rests. The jury is dismissed. Defense will begin their closing arguments at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
4:20 p.m. – The jury returns and Waters continues his arguments.
He brings up the fact that Murdaugh wasn’t worried about a threat to Buster. Waters says Murdaugh wasn’t worried about a threat to Buster because he was the threat.
Waters again asks what father would lie about the last time he saw his wife and son before their deaths.
Waters says Murdaugh is a man who made his trade on lying and lied to the jury as well. He brings up the fact that Murdaugh told the jury Sheriff TC Smalls permitted him to get blue lights in his car, but TC smalls testified that he had no idea Murdaugh had blue lights in his car.
Waters says that Murdaugh claims all the other witnesses are lying about him, but that Murdaugh is the master liar himself.
He says that Murdaugh is trying to sell the jury on a story that he left the kennels just before some vigilantes got to the kennels, that the 5’2 vigilantes knew that Maggie and Paul would be there and that Murdaugh wouldn’t, that the vigilantes used family guns, and that Murdaugh didn’t hear a thing.
Waters says that Murdaugh’s life was crumbling and his ego couldn’t stand it, which drove him to kill Maggie and Paul.
Waters says they couldn’t have any eyewitnesses testify because they were murdered, but common sense and human nature can speak for Maggie and Paul.
During his testimony, Murdaugh said that whoever did this had anger in his heart. Murdaugh also said to Marian Proctor that whoever did it planned it for a long time. Waters says that he believes Murdaugh was talking about himself.
Waters says that the kennel video was the fatal flaw that unraveled Murdaugh’s alibi.
Waters says motive, means, opportunity, and guilt are all present.
He says the jury is responsible for vindicating Maggie and Paul, who were cut down in the prime of their lives. He says Murdaugh fooled Maggie and Paul and tells the jury not to let Murdaugh fool them too.
4:17 p.m. – Court is back in session. Defense attorney Jim Griffin asks if he will be expected to argue tonight. Judge Newman says that Griffin will be able to argue at a time when the jury has a full attention span.
Waters says he plans to go about another 30 minutes.
4:00 p.m. – The jury is sent to the jury room for a 15-minute break.
2:26 p.m. – Court is back in session. Waters resumes his closing arguments.
Waters says family weapons were used to commit the crime. He says forensic evidence proves it.
He says the family had three 300-Blackouts. Paul said one was stolen, so they replaced it. The replacement is now missing as well. Murdaugh claimed he hadn’t seen the replacement since around Christmas of 2021, but Paul’s friend Will Loving said he and Paul used the gun after that.
Bullet casings found around Maggie’s body matched casings found around the family property in places where Loving said they shot the 300-Blackout.
Waters believes a family-owned Benelli shotgun was used to kill Paul. Paul, Buster, and Murdaugh all had some version of a Super Black Eagle, but the one Murdaugh favored was not found during a search of the property. The other two were taken into evidence.
Waters brings up the Rudofski timeline. He goes through the timeline, beginning with Murdaugh arriving home at 6:42 p.m.
The timeline is consistent with Paul and Murdaugh riding around the property, like Murdaugh said. Maggie arrived around 8:17 p.m. and the family ate dinner.
Paul recorded the kennel video at 8:44 p.m. Murdaugh, Maggie, and Paul can all be heard on that video.
Murdaugh initially told law enforcement he was not at the kennels with them and stood behind that lie until his testimony in the courtroom. Waters asks why in the world a reasonable, non-guilty person would lie about that.
Paul was actively on his phone until 8:49 p.m. Maggie’s phone activity also stops at 8:49 p.m.
Waters says that Murdaugh used two different guns to kill Maggie and Paul to make it look like there were two shooters.
He implies that Murdaugh shot Paul, thought he was dead, was bending down to pick up the 300-Blackout and kill Maggie, then saw Paul appear at the feed room door so he shot him again. That is why the shot came from a downward angle.
Waters says Maggie heard what happened and was running to Paul then Murdaugh shot her.
Waters says Murdaugh hosed himself off at the kennels, which is why the hose was put back wrong and there was water on the concrete.
Around 9:02 p.m., Murdaugh’s phone records what Waters describes as a flurry of activity. Murdaugh could not remember exactly what he was doing at the time. He said he was getting ready to go to his mom’s house. He also made several calls during that time. Waters says Murdaugh was manufacturing an alibi.
Waters questions why Murdaugh would call Maggie multiple times as he was leaving to go to his mom’s, but he did not drive by the kennels and check on her when she didn’t answer.
He says cell phone data indicates Murdaugh tossed Maggie’s phone out the window and made several phone calls on the way to Alameda, disposed of the evidence at Alameda, spent time with his mom to support his alibi, then returned to the scene.
Waters says that Murdaugh can remember some details vividly and not others, like the last conversation with his wife, because he is manufacturing an alibi. He says that he can lie convincingly and easily on the fly, has been doing it for years, and did it to the jury.
He also questions Murdaugh’s reaction time when he arrived home. He says Murdaugh did not have enough time to arrive to the scene, be shocked, check the bodies, and call 911. He says it all happened so fast because Murdaugh knew what he was coming home to.
Waters discusses Murdaugh’s consciousness of guilt. He says some of Murdaugh’s statements indicate guilt, and that Murdaugh says things in one context and means them in another. He refers to Murdaugh’s statement to Marian Proctor that “whoever did this thought about it for a long time” and his admission in court that he has hurt people he loves.
Waters plays videos of several interviews with law enforcement. He again questions at what point Murdaugh decided to lie. He also points out Murdaugh’s demeanor in the interviews, saying it is not that of someone who is paranoid about law enforcement.
Waters shows photos of the crime scene. He asks the jury to recall what they saw during their trip to Moselle earlier this morning.
He describes how the murders happened, according to the state’s experts. The first shot to Paul went into his chest and exited under his arm. The second shot came at an upward angle, hit the top of his shoulder, went in through his jaw, continued into his head, and exited through the back/top of his head. He reminds the jury of the evidence and asks them to consider whether the state or defense’s explanation is more plausible.
1:06 p.m. – Court breaks for lunch and will resume at 2:20 p.m.
12:11 p.m. – The jury is brought in. The state begins closing arguments.
State prosecutor Creighton Waters delivers the closing arguments.
He says on June 7, 2021, Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were brutally murdered by Alex Murdaugh.
He says Murdaugh is the only person who had the motive, means, and guilty conduct after the murders.
Waters admits it has been a long trial and says he wants to distill the information.
To set the stage, he says we must understand Murdaugh was a person of prominence who was able to avoid accountability his entire life. Waters says Murdaugh became dependent on stealing money to fund his lifestyle. He stole from clients and his law firm in two main ways: through Palmetto State Bank and through the Forge account.
Waters calls it a slow burn that continued until the 2019 boat crash, at which point the pace of Murdaugh’s stealing increased. Waters says that was coming to a head in the spring of 2021 because of the publicity around the case and the growing suspicion of his law partners.
On June 7, 2021 Waters said the pressures were mounting and Murdaugh killed Maggie and Paul.
He says the forensic timeline puts him there, the use of the family weapons corroborates that, and the lies and guilty actions afterward confirm it.
In the aftermath of the murders, Waters says that all of the pressures previously mounting on Murdaugh went away because people were focused on supporting Murdaugh.
About a month later, Murdaugh was confronted again about missing fees and pressures began mounting again. Waters says within days, the roadside shooting happened and Murdaugh again resorted to violence to make himself a victim.
Waters says if the story seems removed from most people’s experiences, that’s because it is, and because Murdaugh is unlike most people. He says Murdaugh was living a lie. He says pressures mount, and people can become family annihilators.
Waters reminds the jury that they are in charge of judging credibility. He says they decide which witnesses they want to believe and trust. He tells people to consider experts’ and witnesses’ demeanors, whether they have reason to be biased, whether their testimony was supported or contradicted, and whether they have been honest in the past.
Waters says that the jury must find Murdaugh guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. He says a reasonable doubt doesn’t have to overcome every possible doubt, it just has to convince a reasonable person of the guilt of the defendant.
He reviews direct and circumstantial evidence. Direct evidence proves a fact. Circumstantial evidence is a chain of circumstances that proves a fact. He says circumstantial evidence should be considered just as strong as direct evidence.
Waters defines murder as the unlawful and willful killing of someone with malice aforethought.
He says the jury has to infer what the defendant’s intentions were.
Waters reminds the jury that being under the influence of drugs does not absolve someone of responsibility for their actions.
Waters begins a slideshow illustrating the state’s argument against Murdaugh.
He refers to the gathering storm he said was coming for Murdaugh around June 7. He points out that Murdaugh is a trained lawyer who knows how to construct an alibi and a defense.
Waters says Murdaugh was on a constant hamster wheel for over a decade, always having to beg, borrow, or steal to conceal his lies. He says the stress would be immense.
Waters points out that Murduagh looked clients and his staff/partners in the eye for over a decade and lied so easily that he couldn’t even remember the specific conversations. Waters says he is doing the same to the jury, and it is up to them to decide whether they believe it.
Nobody knew Murdaugh, according to Waters. He points out that even some of Murdaugh’s closest friends who testified said they didn’t really know him.
Waters again says that the pressures on Murdaugh were unbearable and were reaching a crescendo the day Maggie and Paul were murdered. After that, the pressures were temporarily relieved. He says Murdaugh used the reprieve to stay one step ahead.
Waters says the jury must consider the unique circumstances of this one particular man who has proved that he will do anything to keep the hamster wheel going.
He moves on to discuss Murdaugh’s opioid addiction. He recalls Murdaugh saying that when he was in withdrawal, he would do anything to make the symptoms go away.
Waters asks the jury to use common sense. Murdaugh told them he was taking 1,000mg per day. He asks if that sounds survivable. He says Murdaugh sat on the stand, looked the jury in the eye, and lied to them several times.
Waters calls into question Murdaugh’s claims of paranoia. He says the jury can judge for themselves from the bodycam videos whether he seemed paranoid in his interviews with law enforcement.
He again introduces the theory that Murdaugh killed Maggie and Paul because they were “watching him like a hawk” in June of 2021 after finding his pills in May.
12:00 p.m. – Court is in session. Counsel has a private discussion with Judge Newman before the jury is brought in.
11:15 a.m. – The court has provided answers to some questions regarding jury deliberations.
There has been no decision yet as to whether the jury will be sequestered.
Deliberations could go as long as necessary. The jury will deliberate through the weekend if necessary.
The longer the deliberations go, the more notice will be given prior to the verdict.
9:00 a.m. – The jury left the Colleton County Courthouse around 9:10 a.m. and began the roughly 30-minute trip to Moselle.
A small media pool was allowed to visit the property, trailing behind the jurors.
According to the pool report, some of the deputies escorting the jury to Moselle were some of the state’s witnesses, including Colleton County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Laura Rutland.
Sergeant Daniel Greene, another state witness, is escorting Attorney General Alan Wilson.
Defense attorneys Dick Harpootlian and Margaret Fox are there as well. Jim Griffin stayed behind to prepare closing arguments.
Judge Newman is with the jurors. He is the only person they are allowed to speak to during the visit.
The entrance to Moselle was guarded by deputies, but the road was not blocked off as Harpootlian had previously suggested. Several media outlets were parked along the side of Moselle Road.
The jury left Moselle around 10:30 a.m.
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