Murdaugh: Defense petitions court to block ‘blood spatter expert’ testimony
COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Just days before disbarred Lowcountry attorney Alex Murdaugh is set to face trial for charges in the murders of his wife and youngest son, his defense team is calling for a state expert’s testimony to be excluded from the trial.
In a January 18 filing, Murdaugh’s defense is asking for the court to deny prosecutors from using any testimony from Tom Bevel, a blood spatter expert, in Murdaugh’s murder trial set to begin Monday. Murdaugh’s defense has previously raised questions about the use of Bevel’s expertise on the shirt that Murdaugh was wearing the night of Paul and Maggie’s murders, a white T-shirt which reportedly had blood on it, according to previous filings.
The defense is now pointing to another expert, whose affidavit and preliminary report were completed Jan. 9, 2023, and released in the new documents, as their justification for excluding Bevel’s opinion. The new report does not agree with what the state expert says about how blood transferred to the shirt.
According to the filing, Orangeburg County Deputy Chief Dr. Kenneth Kinsey, a former South Carolina Law Enforcement Division special agent, says the stains on the shirt are too hard to identify as high-velocity spatter, the blood stains you’d likely find on a shooter’s clothing, according to the documents.
Prosecutors requested Kinsey review case evidence and detail how he thinks the murders took place. When it comes to the evidence, “Deputy Kinsey is unwilling to say the T-shirt has any blood spatter,” the document states.
Kinsey’s affidavit lays out details from the night of the murders and the locations of Paul and Maggie’s bodies.
The affidavit states Paul had been shot twice with a shotgun inside a feed room that was connected to covered outdoor dog runs and was later discovered on a covered sidewalk face down outside the door to the room. Maggie was found “a short distance away” face down and had been shot several times by a rifle.
The affidavit also details the number of times each were shot.
Maggie was shot five times, with two of the shots considered lethal, the affidavit states. Kinsey notes the two shots that he determined would be lethal were fired from opposite directions. He continued that the three non-lethal shots that were fired were fired while Maggie was “upright or semi-upright” prior to the two shots that were immediately fatal.
Kinsey would also note that there was no evidence that indicated her body was moved or manipulated. The affidavit states there was no way to determine the exact position of the shooter in relation to Maggie and that even trying to recreate the situation would be subjective because the movements of Maggie and the shooter were unknown.
The affidavit states Paul was shot the first time from “several feet away” while in the center of the feed room. Kinsey’s analysis continues to state the shooter would have been standing just outside the room’s door when the first shot was fired and evidence suggested that Paul moved toward the door before the second shot was fired.
Kinsey said it was unlikely the shooter was standing with a “shouldered weapon” when the second shot was fired.
In reference to the shirt that was tested for splatter, Kinsey said the photographs had two different types of blood stains in two areas.
“The large stain on the bottom of the shirt appeared to be the transfer of spatter by a wipe,” the affidavit states. “Alex Murdaugh wiped his face and forehead with the area of the t-shirt that now contains the larger stain.”
The stains at the top of the shirt were noted as being “distinctly different” and not a transfer.
When asked about the location of Paul’s phone and when it may have been removed from his rear pocket, Kinsey said he believed the phone had been removed by someone other than Paul and the stain on the inside of the pocket was made when the phone was taken from the pocket, but before the phone was placed on top of the pocket.
Meanwhile, the state’s expert, Bevel, reportedly agreed with Kinsey in his own study -- at first. After being confronted by SLED agents, he changed his mind, saying the stains are in fact blood spatter, according to previous filings from the defense.
“Deputy Kinsey’s opinion on blood spatter – or, more accurately, his lack of an opinion – therefore appears to have little value to the prosecution.”
Murdaugh’s defense is requesting Bevel’s testimony be excluded from the trial, as well as an award of costs and fees incurred through Bevel’s analysis. It is unclear what evidence will be accepted in court at this time.
Prosecutors have not responded to a request for comment.
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