Murdaugh trial updates: Former lawyer testifies in own defense, admits he lied to investigators

Byianne Gallagher, Randi Kaye, Dakin Andone and Alta Spells, CNN, CNNWire
Friday, February 24, 2023
Alex Murdaugh murders trial
Alex Murdaugh murders trial

COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. -- Alex Murdaugh took the stand to testify in his double murder trial Thursday morning, admitting he lied to investigators when he said he was not at the scene of the killings of his wife and son minutes before the state says the fatal shootings took place in June 2021.

WATCH: Alex Murdaugh takes the witness stand in his own defense

Former lawyer Alex Murdaugh took the stand in his own defense in the Murdaugh murders trial Thursday.

Almost immediately, Murdaugh acknowledged his voice is heard in a video that appeared to be filmed at the dog kennels where the bodies of Margaret "Maggie" Murdaugh and Paul Murdaugh were found, saying he lied about being at the kennels earlier that evening because of "paranoid thinking" stemming from his drug addiction.

WATCH: Alex Murdaugh admits he lied to investigators about whereabouts night of murders

Alex Murdaugh, who is accused of killing his family, says he lied to investigators.

The state has used the video to put Murdaugh at the scene of the killings, despite his claims to law enforcement he had not been at the kennels that night, and numerous witnesses have identified his voice in the background of the video recorded by Paul at 8:44 p.m. the night of June 7, 2021.

"Mr. Murdaugh, is that you on the kennel video at 8:44 p.m. on June 7," defense attorney Jim Griffin asked, "the night Maggie and Paul were murdered?"

"It is," Murdaugh said, later adding, "I wasn't thinking clearly. I don't think I was capable of reason, and I lied about being down there, and I'm so sorry that I did."

WATCH: Alex Murdaugh cries as he describes finding bodies of wife, son

Alex Murdaugh cried on the witness stand while describing how he found his wife and son's lifeless bodies.

Still, Murdaugh was emphatic in his denial that he shot and killed his wife and son, insisting in response to Griffin's questions, "I didn't shoot my wife or my son, anytime, ever."

Murdaugh has pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder and two weapons charges in the killings of his wife and son at the family's estate -- a property known as Moselle -- in Islandton, South Carolina.

Prior to Thursday, Murdaugh has repeatedly denied being at the scene for the fatal shootings. He told investigators he had gone to visit his mother that evening and found the bodies by the kennels when he returned home later that night.

RELATED | Paul Murdaugh confronted father about finding pills month before shooting, prosecutors say

How Alex Murdaugh responded when asked if he killed his family members.

Prosecutors accuse Murdaugh of killing his wife and son to distract from an array of alleged financial crimes, for which the now-disbarred attorney faces 99 charges separate from the murder case. But the defense maintains Murdaugh -- the scion of a powerful South Carolina family who held the local solicitor's office for three generations -- is a caring father who has been wrongly accused after a mishandled investigation.

Murdaugh was sworn in Thursday morning soon after telling Judge Clifton Newman he wanted to testify, despite Newman's decision to deny a defense request to limit the scope of questioning Murdaugh would face under cross-examination, specifically in regard to his alleged financial crimes, which the state has pointed to as a possible motive for the killings.

Newman denied the request, echoing his decision from a day prior when he ruled not to issue a blanket order limiting the state's questions, saying it was "unheard of to me."

The judge previously ruled to allow prosecutors to present evidence related to Murdaugh's alleged financial crimes, which the defense has argued are irrelevant to the murder case.

RELATED | Alex Murdaugh's surviving son testifies he was 'destroyed' by fatal shootings of wife, son

Alex Murdaugh was "destroyed" by the fatal shootings of his wife and son, his surviving son testified in his father's double murder trial Tuesday.

The state, however, contends the purported misconduct was about to be revealed at the time of the killings and provided Murdaugh with a motive to fatally shoot his wife and son by the family's dog kennels that night.

Prosecutors rested their case last week after calling more than 60 witnesses to the stand. In the absence of direct DNA or eyewitness evidence connecting Murdaugh to the killings, they have attempted to show Murdaugh lied to investigators and was at the scene just minutes before the fatal shootings.

Murdaugh recounts finding bodies: 'So bad'

Murdaugh testified he went to the Moselle kennels at Maggie's request the night of the killings, but that he didn't want to go. He had already showered and changed his clothes, Murdaugh said, after sweating during a ride with Paul around the property earlier that evening.

"It was hot, and I had just had a shower. I knew that I would end up doing more work and sweating more. And the dogs is always a chaotic scene," he said. "I just didn't want to go right then."

Maggie and Paul went before he did, Murdaugh said, but he ultimately decided to go. He testified he took a golf cart to the kennels, where Maggie had let out the dogs while Paul was "fooling" with the tail of one dog that belonged to his friend.

RELATED | Prosecutors doubt Alex Murdaugh had time to check wife, son's pulse before calling 911

Soon after, Murdaugh returned to the house, he said, where he lay down on the couch.

"I'm not positive, I dozed off for a minute, or didn't doze off for a minute," he said. But when he got up, he'd made up his mind he was going to visit his mother, who was suffering from Alzheimer's at her home in nearby Almeda.

Murdaugh testified he spoke earlier that day to one of his mother's caregivers, Barbara Mixson, who testified Wednesday she called Murdaugh and told him to visit because his mother was "agitated."

Murdaugh knocked on the door when he arrived, he said, but the other caregiver, Mushell Smith, didn't hear it so he called Smith to be let in. Smith previously testified for the state that the timing of the nighttime visit was unusual and that Murdaugh had called her when he got to the house.

Griffin asked Murdaugh about GPS data from his vehicle that showed the car stopped for about a minute while in his mother's driveway.

"Were you, during that minute or however long it was, were you disposing of murder weapons, Alex?" Griffin asked.

"No," Murdaugh said.

"Were you disposing of bloody clothes?"

"No," Murdaugh said.

Murdaugh went back to Moselle, where he said he first went to the house. Maggie and Paul weren't there, he said, and Murdaugh assumed they were still at the kennels, so he went there.

"What'd you see?" Griffin asked.

"I saw what y'all have seen pictures of," Murdaugh told the jury, referring to his wife and son's bodies, growing emotional and wiping away tears. "So bad."

"I'm not exactly sure what I did. I know I got out of my car, I know I ran back to my car and called 911," Murdaugh said. "I was on the phone with 911 and I was trying to tend to Paul Paul," he said, using his nickname for his youngest son, "and I was trying to tend to Maggie, and I just went back and forth between them.

Paul's injuries were particularly bad, Murdaugh said, and he recalled trying to check his son's body for a pulse and then trying to turn him over.

"I don't know why I tried to turn him over," an emotional Murdaugh said. "I mean, my boy's laying face down. He's done the way he's done. His head was the way his head was. I could see his brain laying on the sidewalk. I didn't know what to do."

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