Bizarre moment Murdaugh’s defense attorney points rifle at prosecution and says ‘tempting’
This is the bizarre moment Alex Murdaugh’s defense attorney pointed a rifle at the prosecution bench and said ‘tempting’ as the courtroom erupted with laughter.
Dick Harpootlian indulged in the gallows humor as the defense today provided analysis of gunshots at the crime scene to claim Alex was too short to be the killer.
The attorney, who is also a Democrat State Senator, was wielding a .300 Blackout in order to show jurors how the killer was holding the assault rifle that killed Maggie.
He grinned as he pointed the gun at the prosecution table and said, ‘tempting’, prompting a chorus of laughter. South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson laughed but others at the prosecution table like Creighton Waters were not amused.
Harpootlian is no stranger to offering levity during the double murder trial and has made frequent asides.
Dick Harpootlian grinned as he pointed the gun at the prosecution table and said, ‘tempting’, prompting a chorus of laughter. South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson laughed, but others at the prosecution table, like Creighton Waters, were not amused
Defense attorney Jim Griffin, left, and Alex Murdaugh speak before the state of Murdaugh’s trial at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, S.C., on Tuesday
Buster, Paul, Maggie and Alex Murdaugh at Lake Kiwi in May 2021 to celebrate the birth of Maggie’s niece’s child
During cross-examination of a forensic scientist earlier in the trial, the lawyer joked about how ‘scintillating’ her afternoon of lengthy technical evidence had been.
Last week while cross-examining the pathologist, he demonstrated gunshots on his colleague with a yard stick and then told him to sit down. Adding, ‘but don’t put your jacket on, I may not be done with you yet.’
On another occasion Harpootlian was laughing during a witness’ testimony, prompting the prosecutor to scold him.
Harpootlian jumped up and said John Meadors should be addressing the witness – not him. ‘If I found the question humorous, I’m sorry,’ he added.
Harpootlian’s deputy in the case, Jim Griffin, was this morning given a dressing down by Judge Clifton Newman after sharing a newspaper column on his Twitter page.
On Saturday, Griffin shared a link to a The Washington Post op-ed titled: ‘Alex Murdaugh trial reveals a sloppy investigation.’
Before jurors entered, the judge asked, ‘Mr Griffin is this part of your defense strategy?’
Judge Newman told Griffin that his actions go ‘against the spirit of the law and does not pass the feel test’.
Griffin conceded, saying that: ‘I will not retweet anything or tweet anything until the trial is over.’
The defense today called Mike Sutton, a crime scene expert, who provided a 3D reconstruction of the crime scene at the kennels.
Alex, 54, is accused of shooting his wife Maggie, 54, and younger son Paul, 22, at the family’s hunting estate at Moselle on June 7, 2021.
He denies the killings and his defense suggest that two killers were operating that night.
Dick Harpootlian wearing shades and his deputy Jim Griffin arrive at the courthouse Tuesday
The defense called Mike Sutton, a crime scene expert, who presented a 3D reconstruction with models of shooter between 5ft2in and 5ft4in tall holding a rifle. He testified about the trajectories of bullets which struck a quail pen under the lean to and the doghouse near where Maggie’s body was found
The defense presented pictures showing Alex standing at 6ft4in, one taken in jail and the other in the courtroom last week
Buster, Maggie, Paul and Alex. The disgraced legal scion is accused of shooting dead his wife and son at the family’s hunting lodge at Moselle on the night of June 7, 2021
Maggie was killed with a .300 Blackout assault rifle, while Paul was murdered with a shotgun.
Sutton told jurors that the trajectory of the bullets that killed Maggie were such that the shooter would have been between 5ft2in and 5ft4in tall.
He said it was ‘very unlikely’ that Murdaugh – who stands at 6ft4in – fired the shots because his ‘shooting hand would have to have been below his knee cap.’
Sutton told the court he measured Alex, known by his family as ‘Big Red, this morning and his kneecap was 25 inches off the ground.
The expert said: ‘It puts them in an unrealistic shooting position. It’s not an aiming position. It’s not a shooting position. It would be something other than a shooting position where you were on your feet.’
‘You would have to be bending over and have your shooting hand down at or below your kneecap. It just makes it very unlikely that a tall person made that shot,’ he added.
The court heard earlier from Buster Murdaugh who testified that his father is 6ft4in.
The 26-year-old took the stand to describe how his father had phoned him on the night of the murders. Alex asked his son if he ‘was sitting down’. ‘He sounded odd and he told me that my mom and my brother had been shot,’ Buster testified.
Buster, 26, stated his full name, Richard Alexander Murdaugh Jr., as father Alex, 54, looked on smiling. He was supported in court by his girlfriend Brooklynn White
Moment Buster locks eyes with his father as he steps up to the stand to testify in his defense
Buster arrives at the Colleton County court in Walterboro Tuesday with his girlfriend Brooklynn White who has supported him most days
He also revealed that he and his father took a vacation to Lake Keowee with Maggie’s parents, his uncle and aunt and their children ten days after the murders.
Buster was asked about his father’s second interview with police, telling jurors Alex said, ‘they did him so bad,’ when referring to Paul. The statement has been hotly contested in the trial, with the State alleging Alex admitted: ‘I did him so bad.’
The defense witnesses are expected to last a week and then there will be closing arguments from the opposing legal sides before jurors are sent to reach a verdict.
Crime scene expert Sutton told jurors the bullets which struck the quail pen and the doghouse came from different directions. The former was fired from the right, while the latter came from the left.
Maggie’s body lies close to the doghouse by the lean to which stands adjacent to the kennels at the hunting property at Moselle in South Carolina
The dog house (left) and the quail pen (up against the wooden wall) at the kennels of the hunting estate at Moselle
Maggie’s blood-soaked body was found just a few yards away from the doghoure
He showed jurors a computer visualization with green lines to show the flight path of the bullets.
The expert said the quail pen bullet was fired upward, while the one which struck the doghouse was fired downward.
The defense had previously suggested that Paul and Maggie were killed by two different shooters.
Maggie was killed with five rounds from a .300 Blackout assault rifle, while Paul was shot twice with a 12-gauge shotgun.
Neither murder weapon has ever been recovered, however the State argues that Alex used ‘family weapons’ to kill Maggie and Paul.
Sutton was hired by the defense and was at the crime scene on October 2022, more than a year after the shootings.
Although he said the scene had changed since the June 2021 murders, Sutton also looked at photos of the evidence collected by SLED on the day of the killings.
Defense attorney Dick Harpootlian concluded by asking, ‘In going through the case file, did you see any evidence that state investigators did a bullet trajectory analysis like yours?’
Sutton said: ‘No.’