Innocent or guilty, to be determined beyond reasonable doubt


By Andy Ann

On Wednesday, Jan. 25 the opening statements were given from both the prosecution and defense legal counsel for the double murder trial of Richard Alexander “Alex” Murdaugh Sr. He was charged on July 14, 2022, for two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a firearm during a crime.

The four charges are in connection to the deaths of Murdaugh’s wife, Maggie, and his son, Paul. Both were shot to death on June 7, 2021, at the family estate, Moselle. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The lead prosecutor for the State, Creighton Waters stated that it is the prosecutor’s responsibility to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt that Murdaugh murdered his wife and son. He also gave the legal definition of “murder” in the eyes of the law and described the difference between direct evidence and circumstantial evidence. “Direct evidence” is evidence that can be or has been seen directly and “circumstantial evidence” is not seen but deduced.

Lead defense attorney Richard “Dick” Harpootlian stated during his opening, “It is an honor to represent Alex Murdaugh.” He also said that the prosecutor’s statements are theories and not facts. He described Murdaugh as a loving husband and father, as well as Paul being the “apple of his eye.”

Both Waters and Harpootalian stated the known facts about the two murders including the date, property where the incident occurred, key areas within the properties where the bodies were located, and the extensive damage inflicted on the victims.

Paul was found in a small feed room face down. He was shot in the chest with buckshot exiting out from under the arm and shot a second time in the head. The extent of Paul’s head trauma was massive, very graphic, and unnerving in nature. Maggie was found a short distance from Paul near the kennels with several gunshot wounds throughout her body, it is believed that she was shot while running. She was also shot twice in the back of the head, execution style with rounds from a 300 Blackout AR-style rifle. Waters stated that neither victim had any defensive wounds, and both were shot at very close range. Harpootlian countered the detail regarding the lack of evidence of defensive wounds in his statement.

According to Waters, Murdaugh had purchased a total of three Blackout rifles. It was cited in court that rifles were purchased, one of which was stolen. A third rifle was purchased to replace the stolen one. Only one rifle can be accounted for, and the replacement gun is nowhere to be found. According to Waters, some of the evidence collected at the crime scene were shell cases from a rifle and a shotgun, which match other shell cases from various locations on the property.

Waters also talked about some key cell phone evidence. He explained that a cell phone will track everything and provide GPS data, while it “pings” off of cell phone towers. Maggie’s cell phone data indicates the time she arrived at Moselle. There is also a video recording from Paul’s cell phone, while in the kennel, to a friend. Waters said that identifiable voices can be heard in the video clip.

Waters said that Murdaugh claims he was napping at the house and was not near the kennels. Between 8:09-9:02 p.m., there is no recorded activity on his cell phone. At 9:02 p.m. he starts to call and text Maggie followed by calls to several others during a 20-minute drive to his mother’s house. He makes more phone calls on the way back and at 10:01 p.m. returns to Moselle. At 10:06 p.m. he makes a 911 call and when the first responders arrive, he was at the murder scene.

There are three main properties that are of interest in this case and part of the investigation; the main estate at Moselle, the beach house on Edisto Island, and the house in which Murdaugh’s mother resides. Harpootalian stated that he plans on requesting the judge to allow the jury to visit the crime scene.

Through statements, Waters implicated that Murdaugh murdered his wife and son while Harpootalian repeatedly stated that “He didn’t do it! He is presumed innocent! You have to believe he is innocent!”

In the United States, everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty. A person cannot be considered guilty until they have been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a court of law. This is a basic human right to which every citizen is entitled and described in the 5th, 6th, and 14th Amendments within the Bill of Rights, protected by the U.S. Constitution.


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