How Alex Murdaugh’s homicide trial grew to become a circus

Murder. A botched hitman plot. Thriller deaths. Hundreds of thousands of {dollars} of stolen cash. Opioid habit.

The case involving Alex Murdaugh seems to have all of it in relation to drama and plot twists.

It’s then little shock that his homicide trial now happening in Walterboro, South Carolina, has captivated the general public all throughout America.

Nevertheless it ought to then additionally come as little shock to see the high-profile case spilling out right into a spectacle far past the testimony jurors are listening to within the courtroom.

In a single dramatic week, the trial has been rocked by a bomb risk, apparently obscene gestures and unhealthy behaviour from the Murdaugh members of the family, a controversial GoFundMe account and a Covid-19 outbreak amongst jurors.

Right here’s how Mr Murdaugh’s homicide trial has descended right into a circus:

Bomb risk

The trial was plunged into chaos on 8 February when the courthouse was abruptly evacuated attributable to a bomb risk.

The bomb risk got here in to employees at Colleton County Courthouse simply earlier than 12.30pm ET, prompting a sudden evacuation of your complete constructing.

Brian Hudak, SLED pc crimes particular agent, had solely simply sat down on the stand and begun introducing himself, when Choose Clifton Newman interjected saying he was calling a recess.

Seconds later, he clarified that your complete constructing wanted to be evacuated.

Police block off roads close to the courthouse because of the bomb risk


“We have now to evacuate the constructing right now. We’ll be in recess till we uncover what’s happening,” he stated.

Mr Murdaugh was whisked off to an unknown location in a automotive whereas court docket employees, journalists and members of the general public have been rushed out of the constructing and its grounds.

Dozens of emergency automobiles descended on the scene and a bomb squad was referred to as in.

By 2.30pm the risk was marked all-clear, as safety started permitting individuals again into the courthouse for testimony to renew.

A number of sources have since advised FITS Information that the risk was referred to as in from Ridgeland, South Carolina, and got here from a jail inmate.

The risk positioned the purported bomb in probably the most safe a part of the constructing: the choose’s chambers.

‘Flipping the fowl’ and different Murdaugh unhealthy behaviour

In one other twist, Mr Murdaugh’s members of the family have now been warned that they are going to be thrown out of his homicide trial after his surviving son Buster appeared to “flip the fowl” at a witness.

Choose Clifton Newman has reportedly issued a number of warnings to a number of members of the disgraced lawyer’s household about their behaviour in court docket, the place they’ve placed on a united entrance because the begin of his trial.

The members of the family have already been moved to the again of the courtroom in Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina – and are actually just one improper transfer away from being booted out altogether.

Members of the Murdaugh household, together with his son Buster Murdaugh in centre, on the homicide trial


Maggie and Mr Murdaugh’s surviving son Buster was caught showing to make a impolite gesture to Mark Tinsley as he took the witness stand on Thursday a few lawsuit he introduced towards the accused killer.

Footage from the courtroom exhibits Buster apparently flipping the fowl as he stared down the witness.

Sources additionally advised FITS Information that when Buster was requested to maneuver to the again of the courtroom, he allegedly kicked over a water bottle in anger.

Amongst a few of the different unhealthy behaviour from the highly effective household which has reigned over the Hampton County justice system for the final century, Mr Murdaugh’s sister Lynn allegedly handed the disgraced lawyer an undisclosed merchandise.

When she was advised to cease, Lynn – like Buster – allegedly didn’t take it properly, changing into “demonstrative” with court docket employees.

It additionally prompted the court docket to order a drug take a look at for Mr Murdaugh, who has beforehand revealed he has been hooked on opioids for the final 20 years. The outcomes of that medicine take a look at stay unclear.

The refusal of a few of the Murdaugh members of the family to abide by court docket guidelines within the high-profile trial is probably most intriguing on condition that the Murdaughs are notoriously conversant in the court docket system – coming from an extended line of native prosecutors.

However, whereas a few of the members of the family have sparked the ire of the choose, sources stated that Mr Murdaugh’s brothers Randy and John Marvin Murdaugh had been nothing however compliant with the court docket and advised court docket officers they have been comfortable to sit down wherever within the room.

Second Alex Murdaugh’s son seems to provide the finger to homicide trial witness

Because the begin of Mr Murdaugh’s trial, the household has placed on a present of assist, sitting within the row instantly behind the person accused of killing two of their their family members.

Nevertheless, notably, within the hours the place testimony was heard within the absence of the jury, the Murdaughs have been nowhere to be seen.

They might then enter the courtroom earlier than the jury was seated.

Controversial GoFundMe

Exterior the courthouse, it emerged {that a} GoFundMe has been arrange for Mr Murdaugh’s mom’s caregiver “for her bravery” in testifying at his homicide trial.

Mushell “Shelly” Smith gave emotional testimony on 6 February, the place she forged doubts on a part of Mr Murdaugh’s alibi on the evening of the murders – revealing he had lied about how lengthy he had spent at his sick mom’s home.

Breaking down in tears at factors, she described how a “fidgety” Mr Murdaugh confirmed up on the home for a quick 20-minute go to on 7 June 2021 however later requested her to inform authorities he had been there double the size of time.

Within the aftermath of the killings, he then provided to assist Ms Smith each financially and together with her different job and introduced a thriller blue merchandise to go away at his dad and mom’ dwelling, she advised jurors.

GoFundMe launched for the carer of Alex Murdaugh’s mom


On Wednesday, Ms Smith’s daughter Rachelle Buckner launched a GoFundMe marketing campaign to “reward her for her bravery and her honesty because it was one of many hardest issues she needed to do”.

By Friday morning, the GoFundMe had raised greater than $24,000 for Ms Smith.

The donation sparked some controversy – with authorized consultants warning that it might be detrimental to the prosecution’s case if the state needs to name the witness again to the stand.

This concern appeared to succeed in a head on 9 February when it emerged that one other witness – lawyer Mark Tinsley – had made a $1,000 donation to the fund.

Mr Tinsley filed a lawsuit towards the Murdaughs on behalf of the household of Mallory Seaside, the 19-year-old killed in a ship crash the place Paul was allegedly drunk behind the wheel in 2019.

He testified how the lawsuit was placing Mr Murdaugh’s funds beneath elevated scrutiny on the time of the murders.

Mr Murdaugh’s funds would later be uncovered – and he’s now going through round 100 expenses from a number of indictments for stealing nearly $8.5m from regulation agency shoppers courting again to 2011.

Murdaugh’s mom’s caretaker testifies about his whereabouts on evening of murders

The defence introduced up Mr Tinsley’s donation in court docket and requested the choose to strike his testimony due to it.

Defence lawyer Phil Barber advised the choose that he “made a monetary cost to a witness in the course of a trial … as a reward for her honesty”.

Choose Clifton Newman denied the movement, however referred to as the problem “good fodder for cross-examination” – paving the best way for a possible sparring match between Mr Tinsley and the defence attorneys.

However, regardless of the suggestion, the defence selected to not elevate the problem beneath cross-examination and actually declined to ask Mr Tinsley any questions. This got here after a contentious backwards and forwards between the defence and Mr Tinsley within the shadow trial.

Jurors worn out by Covid, illness

On Monday 13 February, the double homicide trial was disrupted but once more as two jurors examined optimistic for Covid-19.

Choose Clifton Newman made the bombshell announcement initially of the weeks’ proceedings, revealing that one juror was asymptomatic whereas the opposite had a cough and sore throat.

Following the revelation, the defence raised issues that others might be contaminated however will not be testing optimistic but – one thing which might threaten to derail the trial altogether if extra jurors take a look at optimistic within the coming days.

Defence lawyer Dick Harpootlian requested Choose Newman for a delay to the trial, saying that – whereas it will be expensive to the defence – it might forestall a much bigger downside down the road.

Bodycam exhibits Alex Murdaugh as first officers arrive on scene of spouse and son’s murders

Prosecutor Creighton Waters agreed with the defence in asking for a delay for a couple of days, saying that neither aspect needs to see a mistrial declared as a result of they’re abruptly left with out 12 jurors – an actual risk on condition that solely three out of the unique six juror alternates now stay.

Regardless of the issues raised, Choose Newman declined to postpone the trial.

As a substitute, he beneficial that jurors – and others in court docket – put on masks going forwards and stated that the remaining jurors shall be examined once more on Wednesday.

Jurors 441 and 326 have been then chosen from the alternates and seated to exchange the 2 jurors who examined optimistic.

On Wednesday morning (15 February), Choose Newman stated that every one remaining jurors have been nonetheless testing damaging.

On Tuesday (21 February), Choose Newman introduced {that a} juror was sick and needed to attend a health care provider’s appointment.

The choose stated he deliberate to exchange the juror with an alternate. The juror in query was already an alternate herself.

If she is changed then there shall be solely two alternates left (there have been six initially of the trial).

Defence lawyer’s daring ‘tempting’ quip at prosecution

On 21 February, defence lawyer Dick Harpootlian induced a stir at his homicide trial as he cracked a joke whereas showing to place a gun on the prosecution desk.

Mr Harpootlian made his daring joke throughout testimony by Mike Sutton, a forensic engineering knowledgeable witness for the defence.

“It’s tempting,” Mr Harpootlian remarked as he held a gun not directly pointed on the state’s desk. The .300 Blackout rifle belonged to Buster, and has been used on the trial for demonstrative functions as it’s much like the one believed to have been used within the homicide of the defendant’s spouse Maggie.

“I don’t know the way to do that with out pointing it out at anyone,” Mr Harpootlian added because the courtroom erupted with laughter.

Mr Murdaugh might be seen grinning from the defence desk in the course of the uncommon second of levity in a trial that has been marked by graphic descriptions of the murders.

Viewers following the trial on-line have been much less amused by the quip, dozens of them taking to Twitter to query whether or not they’d heard appropriately.

Choose compares Murdaugh’s lawyer to Kyrie Irving

At first of day 19 of the disgraced authorized scion’s trial on Tuesday (21 February), Choose Clifton Newman questioned Mr Murdaugh’s lawyer Jim Griffin about considered one of his tweets in regards to the case.

On Saturday, Mr Griffin shared a hyperlink to a The Washington Put up op-ed titled: “Alex Murdaugh trial reveals a sloppy investigation.”

Earlier than jurors entered the courtroom on Tuesday, Choose Newman introduced up the publish, saying that he had acquired emails “regarding a social media publish by Mr Griffin commenting on witness testimony and the standard of the investigation by the state”.

The choose stated that the publish then appeared on his personal Twitter feed that morning.

“Mr Griffin is that this a part of your defence technique?” the choose requested, eliciting amusing from the gallery and a clumsy pause from the lawyer.

“Your honour, all I did was retweet an article that was revealed in The Washington Put up. I didn’t put any remark or make any assertion. I simply retweeted an article that was within the newspaper,” Mr Griffin responded.

At this level, the choose in contrast Mr Griffin to NBA star Kyrie Irving who was suspended from the Brooklyn Nets final yr for retweeting an antisemitic publish.

“We had an expert basketball participant who retweeted an article that resulted in him being suspended from the NBA for about 10 days and price him about $10m in wage, so retweeting is similar as – to some – as if [it’s] your tweet,” he stated.

Mr Irving was embroiled in controversy in late October when he tweeted a hyperlink to Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America, a documentary which peddles a number of antisemitic conspiracy theories and falsehoods. The publish sparked an prompt backlash and he was suspended with out pay from the Nets.

After making the comparability, the choose then elicited some laughs when he stated he was “not a Twitter pal” of Mr Griffin’s however had nonetheless come throughout the publish.

Choose Newman advised Mr Griffin that his actions go “towards the spirit of the regulation and doesn’t cross the texture take a look at”.

Mr Griffin conceded, saying that: “I cannot retweet something or tweet something till the trial is over.”

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