WALTERBORO, S.C. (NewsNation) — The murder trial for Alex Murdaugh enters into day seven on Thursday, and a big question remains: Will evidence on Murdaugh’s alleged financial crimes be used in the trial?
Court ended Wednesday on a cliffhanger. Judge Clifton Newman said he would rule Thursday morning on whether evidence of Murdaugh possibly stealing from clients and his family law firm could be admitted.
Prosecutors opened the door by asking one of Paul Murdaugh’s friends the last question of the day if he knew anything about Alex Murdaugh “being confronted on the morning of June 7, 2021, about $792,000 of missing fees from his law firm?” The friend answered no.
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Prosecutors said fear that this theft was about to be exposed led Murdaugh to kill his wife and son to get sympathy and buy time to cover up the crimes. The defense said it’s absurd to think a lawyer would believe the brutal deaths of his family would not bring more scrutiny into his life.
State Attorney for Palm Beach Florida Dave Aronberg said proving motive will be critical for prosecutors as they try to convince a jury of Murdaugh’s guilt. While proving motive isn’t necessary under law, Aronberg said most juries want to understand why someone would commit a crime.
He said bringing in a witness who could testify to Murdaugh’s financial situation and alleged crimes could help prosecutors explain why a man who appeared to be a loving husband and father would kill his wife and son.
“It’s that the gig was up. He had to fraud and his law firm. They were going to expose him. And also he had a hearing in the civil matter against his son Paul, where he was going to have to disclose his finances. And so his financial house of cards was about to collapse. And that’s why he did this heinous act,” Aronberg said.
On Wednesday, jurors saw key evidence for prosecutors, a video from the son’s phone of a dog at the kennels near where Alex Murdaugh’s son Paul was killed with a shotgun and wife Maggie was shot several times with a rifle at the family’s Colleton County hunting lodge on June 7, 2021.
A timeline from prosecutors said the video indicates Alex Murdaugh was near the kennels that night, something he denied. His defense team used the same data to suggest Alex and Maggie Murdaugh’s phones were not together at the time.
Retired FBI agent Dennis Franks said it’s compelling evidence for the prosecution.
“Overall, the the evidence itself the fact that the voice was heard and into witnesses and said 100% sure that it’s Alex is is very strong evidence,” he said.
Franks said voices can be compelling pieces of forensic evidence.
“Voice print are like fingerprints, there are they’re unique to individual. There are very few people that have, if any that have the exact same voice pattern,” Franks said.
Former FBI agent Tracy Walder said deleted Snapchat messages could also give insight into the timeline, if prosecutors can show the timeline of when they were deleted.
“Look, lots of 19-year-olds delete things from their phone that they don’t want their parents to see. So that’s not all that uncommon. But what will be interesting is to know what time those messages were deleted,” she said.
Earlier this week, jurors watched as the defense cross-examined investigators and crime scene technicians about evidence gathered at the scene where his wife and son were found shot to death.
The defense raised questions about the gathering and preservation of the evidence, and also gave jurors a chance to form their own opinions, sharing a video of Alex Murdaugh talking to investigators.
At question is whether Murdaugh said “I did him so bad” or “They did him so bad” as he sobbed and spoke to state agents during a recorded interview three days after Murdaugh’s wife and son were killed.
Murdaugh, 54, is standing trial on two counts of murder in the shootings of his 52-year-old wife and 22-year-old son. Murdaugh faces 30 years to life in prison if convicted.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.