Closing arguments to begin Wednesday in Murdaugh trial, jury visits Moselle

By Paige Phillips

Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 11:48 AM EST

COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WTOC) - Closing arguments are set to begin Wednesday in the Murdaugh double murder trial.

Before that can begin, the jury was taken to the Moselle property where the murders happened to view the dog kennels and the outside of the house where the Murdaugh family lived.

Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were killed there on June 7, 2021. Alex Murdaugh is accused of killing his wife and son.

According to the pool reporter, the jury assembled around 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Colleton County Courthouse to ride to Moselle. The 12 jurors and two alternates rode in three transport vans with windows that were blocked out to keep everyone from seeing the members of the jury.

The van left the courthouse around 9:10 a.m. Along with the jury, Judge Clifton Newman rode to Moselle with Colleton County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Jason Chapman. Capt. Chapman testified in the trial on the first full day of testimony. He was the lead local officer the night of the murders.

Courtroom security joined the jury as well.

The plan for the property visit was to have the jury arrive at the kennel entrance and have a total of 30 minutes to view the property. They spent most of their time at the kennels and the shed where Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were killed. Towards the end of the visit, the jury was taken to the main house for a view of the exterior. They did not go inside.

After the jury finished, a pool of reporters were given the same tour of the property. When the pool reporters arrived to Moselle, they could see the jurors walking the narrow path between the kennels and the shed. One juror was standing in the feed room door, glancing up at the doorway that has been the subject of much of the testimony we have heard over the last six weeks.

The pool reporter notes some of the deputies on watch while the jurors tour are some of the key witnesses in the case, including CCSO Detective Laura Rutland, who sat in on Alex Murdaugh’s first interview with SLED investigator David Owen in the early hours of June 8.

Just after 10 a.m., Defense Attorney Dick Harpootlian and co-counsel Margaret Fox came down the short driveway. Defense lawyer Jim Griffin is delivering the closing argument as soon as Wednesday afternoon and was not with his colleagues.

Attorney General Alan Wilson was also at the property. He was escorted by Sgt. Daniel Greene. It was Sgt. Greene’s bodycam video the jury viewed at the close of the prosecution’s questioning of Murdaugh late last week.

The pool reporter described the state of Moselle as they saw it, “The grass on the property is tall and the shrubs outside the caretaker’s cabin are bushy and overgrown. The black mailbox at the entrance to the kennels is covered in pollen and spiderwebs. There is a ‘no trespassing’ sign tied to a post at the top of the mailbox.”

John Marvin Murdaugh, personal representative of Maggie Murdaugh, requested of the sheriff’s office to no grant media access to the scene, or only abbreviated access. The pool reporter says they were given about 14 minutes to view the kennels and shed.

The pool reporter says it is a heavy place to visit as the property has remained vacant for 20 months and the grass is high. They say some items seem to be left where they fell, including a deflated football behind the kennels and a tube of sanitizing wipes in the shed.

The pool reporter even spotted a yellow hose wrapped haphazardly in the spot described by Roger Dale Davis, the caretaker for the dogs. There are no animals in the kennels.

There was no ATV visible and no significant remaining farming equipment that the pool reporter could see.

The pool reporter was able to see the feed room, where Paul Murdaugh was killed. The room is roughly 10′ deep and 6′ wide, according to measurements taken by Special Agent Melinda Worley.

Crime scene expert Kenneth Kinsey described Paul as standing about 5′ into the feed room when he was hit by the first shotgun blast to the chest. The pool reporter says the doorway is off center and on the right. They say there is a shelf on the left at waist height.

Standing in the center of the small room, the pool reporter said they could not see to the left outside of the doorway, where Mr. Kinsey said the shooter would have been.

They say the concrete pad where Paul fell is within sight of the corner of the shed, where Maggie’s body was found. Maggie fell roughly 12 steps from where Paul would have fallen.

The pool reporter says there was no visible sign that two people had died in a violent manner in such close proximity, no blood stain or anything similar to it, either in the feed room, on the concrete pad or at the corner of the shed.

They say the interior of the feed room appeared to be redone with newer plywood and parts had been painted. The back window remains and the bullet holes are large and cracked around the edges.

There was significant testimony about the bullet hole in the quail house. The hole is still visible, according to the pool reporter, and is in cardboard that appeared to be stapled to the side of the structure.

Alex Murdaugh arrived to the Colleton County Courthouse moments after the media pool unloaded from their van, returning from Moselle.

What will happen once the jury begins deliberations

The pool reporter was able to get a few answers on what to expect once jury deliberations begin. That will not start until closing arguments are complete and then Judge Newman will give their instructions before they are allowed to begin deliberating.

There is not a set amount of time they will have to deliberate. They can take as much or as little time as they need.

While deliberating, all questions and requests from the jury will be on the record. The jury will have technology to view exhibits that were presented during the trial.

If the jury does not come up with a verdict by Friday, deliberations will continue into the weekend.

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