BLOG: Day 18: Judge blocks testimony on Alex Murdaugh shooting

Murdaugh may take stand before trial ends
Published: Feb. 15, 2023 at 3:00 AM EST|Updated: Feb. 15, 2023 at 10:55 PM EST
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WALTERBORO, S.C. (WCSC) - The judge in the Alex Murdaugh murder trial ruled that testimony involving the shooting of Alex Murdaugh months after the murders of his wife and son will not be allowed during the trial.

Judge Clifton Newman listened to arguments from the prosecution and the defense about whether the jury should hear about the incident in September of 2021, nearly three months after the killings of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh, for which Alex Murdaugh is standing trial. Alex Murdaugh told investigators he had been shot while changing a tire on Salkahatchie Road near Varnville in Hampton County on Sept. 4, 2021

Investigators say the shooting was actually a plot that involved Alex Murdaugh hiring someone to fatally shoot him so that his surviving son, Buster, would inherit a death benefit from an insurance policy. State investigators say Murdaugh, who was indicted in the shooting incident along with Curtis Smith, provided a statement to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division admitting to the scheme.

“The evidence, I find, goes beyond motive or is not evidence of motive [in the killings] but is more toward common scheme or plan,” Newman said. “It does not survive the logical relevancy test and it goes more toward showing the propensity to commit violent acts, which would cause it not to survive the [Rule 403] analysis. I believe that to allow this evidence is a bridge too far.”

Story continues below live blog.

The issue about whether to allow testimony about the Salkahatchie Road shooting came up Tuesday during the testimony of Marian Proctor, the sister of Maggie Murdaugh.

READ RECAP: Maggie Murdaugh’s sister takes stand, questions Alex Murdaugh’s priorities after murders

Proctor began to allude to a shooting that happened on Salkahatchie Road near Varnville in Hampton County on Sept. 4, 2021, nearly three months after Alex Murdaugh’s wife, Maggie; and their youngest son, Paul, were gunned down at the family’s hunting property in rural Colleton County. At that point, the judge excused the jury to discuss objections to allowing a mention of the shooting.

SPECIAL SECTION: The Murdaugh Cases

“I agree with the defense that it would be admissible, perhaps, if the trial was a trial on the financial theft issues, but not on the murder, so I grant the motion to exclude this evidence at this time,” Newman said. “Of course, as we have seen, things change. Who knows?”

Murdaugh may testify in trial

CNN reported Tuesday night that defense attorneys Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin are considering allowing their client to testify on the stand before the trial ends.

The prosecution was expected to rest its case as early as this week, and the defense would then begin presenting its case. The decision to call Murdaugh to the stand to testify was expected to come within the next few days and will likely be a last-minute decision, a source familiar with the defense’s thinking told the network.

Murdaugh, meanwhile, has repeatedly denied having killed his wife and son.

The jury will not report to the courtroom until 10:30 a.m. to give the judge time to rule on the admissibility of testimony related to the alleged insurance fraud shooting.