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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Alex Murdaugh Found Guilty Of Murdering Son And Wife; SC AG On Murdaugh Guilty Verdict: "No One Is Above The Law". Aired 8-9p ET
Aired March 02, 2023 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. We begin with breaking news.
After just about three hours of deliberation jurors tonight reached a verdict in the Alex Murdaugh double murder trial.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Guilty verdict.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Convictions on all four charges against him including two counts of first-degree murder in the killings of his wife, Margaret and his son, Paul in July of 2021. You see him being led away there put in a van, taken from the Courthouse just moments ago that occurred.
We're waiting for a conference with the prosecution, a press conference that we believe will be taking place any moment now. Our Randi Kaye was in the Courthouse when the verdicts were read, she joins us now.
Randi, it's extraordinary how quickly the jury came to this verdict. What was like in the Courtroom when the verdicts were read?
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson.
It took them just about three-and-a-half hours or so to find Alex Murdaugh guilty on all four of those counts. And you know, you always try and read the jury as they file back into the Courtroom. None of them looked to the right of the Courtroom where Murdaugh sits and the family sits, they were all basically had their heads down as they walked into the courtroom.
Also Anderson, you could see Alex Murdaugh -- oh, we have this presser that's just about to start here. But that would be -- that's the that's the South Carolina Attorney General, Anderson, Alan Wilson at the podium.
He actually questioned one of the last witnesses, Anderson, because that was a very important witness, a key witness. He was speaking to how the crime scene, how it all happened. He was a crime scene expert on recreation of the crime scene and was really able to help the jury understand how the defense's theory just could not have worked.
So we should probably listen in here.
COOPER: Let's listen in.
ALAN WILSON, SOUTH CAROLINA ATTORNEY GENERAL: I want to thank every one of you for being here tonight. This is -- there's a lot of emotion here tonight at this Courthouse.
A lot of -- a year-and-a-half, nearly two years of blood, sweat and tears it feels like, a lot of hard work from so many people. So if you will just bear with me. There's a couple of -- not a couple -- there are a lot of people I have to thank.
But first, those of you who don't know, I'm Alan Wilson. I'm South Carolina's Attorney General and I got the best staff of any Attorney General in the United States of America.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
WILSON: I want to start by thanking our prosecution team. I want to tell you, I've been here for nearly six weeks with this team living in a hotel and it felt almost like being in a dorm environment in college. Late nights cramming, studying, little sleep away from our families, getting up early, getting here to the Courthouse, working long hours, getting on each other's nerves at times, but it was all worth it.
It was all worth it because we got to bring justice and be a voice for Maggie and Paul Murdaugh and bring justice for the people of South Carolina.
I'd like to start real briefly by thanking our team. First, excuse me, let me put my glasses on.
Our chief prosecutor, I tell you, I appointed Creighton Waters to be the chief prosecutor of this case nearly a year-and-a-half ago and I want to say I'm pretty brilliant because I picked the right guy and I want to say thank you to Creighton Waters.
Creighton, you did a fantastic job. I don't think there is another attorney in the State of South Carolina that could have led this Herculean effort, but Creighton will be the first to tell you he didn't do it alone because he had a team of people.
I want to first thank Don Zelenka who was actually Creighton's boss, he is the Deputy Attorney General. He had been in the Attorney General's Office for over 40 years, sitting here to my immediate left, Don Zelenka, thank you so much. John Meadors, many of you got to see him do the closing argument today. John, thank you. You've done -- you've been a phenomenal add to our team.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
WILSON: I'm going to go quickly through the names, but as I read the names, please raise your hand. You know, Creighton, you saw Don and you see John -- David Fernandez (ph), John Conrad (ph), Johnny James (ph), Savannah Gowd (ph). Ozzie Toledo (ph), Shane Aceto (ph), Carly Jewel (ph), Carson Bernie (ph), Danielle Cologne (ph), and our victims advocate, Tricia Allen.
I also want to say thank you to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, Mark Keel assigned some amazing men and women and when I say it was an agency-wide effort on behalf of SLED, I can't underscore that part enough.
Every time I called Chief Keel, every time I reached out to the lead agents, every time Creighton was asking me, "Hey, General. We need something from SLED." We would reach out to SLED and they were there. They busted their butts.
I can't begin to list every agent, and some can't be listed for obvious reasons. Some are standing up here tonight. I told them I wasn't going to mention their names, but we would not be here if it wasn't for SLED and I want to thank Mark Keel and his team and all of the men and women across the entire State Law Enforcement Division for what they did to make tonight a possibility.
I also want to thank the FBI and the Secret Service, our Federal partners. We had to utilize many of their assets and resources. We couldn't do all the things that we did without our Federal partners.
We had a lot of local partners. We had the Colleton County Sheriff's Department, Buddy Hill, Sheriff Hill and his team providing the security. They did a phenomenal job and they were there, they were the first responders the night on June 7, 2021 when Maggie and Paul were butchered, brutally. They were the first responders, and they were the first ones to be there.
The Charleston County Sheriff's Office, the Orangeburg County Sheriff's Office were instrumental in supporting our investigative efforts. You all know Kenny Kinsey, our chief crime scene expert, he is with the Orangeburg Sheriff's Office.
I also want to thank the City of Walterboro. I think the Mayor is here somewhere. I know the Police Department they provided security. Thank you.
This whole community has embraced our entire team and I cannot thank you enough.
We've all been away from our families, two hours away from our families for the past two months and it is this community that made us -- we would walk into restaurants and people would come up and thank us.
You know, you don't have any idea how good that makes people feel when they're under an incredible amount of stress, incredible amount of scrutiny and this community really embraced us.
I want to thank the Colleton County Clerk of Court, Becky Hill and her entire team and their staff. I don't know.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
WILSON: I call her Becky Boo. That's her nickname. But Madam Clerk, wherever you are tonight.
BECKY HILL, COLLETON COUNTY CLERK OF COURT: General, I am here.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
WILSON: I'm sorry. That's my pet name for.
But I want to thank you Madam Clerk, for you, the entire team, the bailiffs, the Court security, the staff here. There was no role that was too small that they weren't willing to do for us. The security team here. It was a Herculean effort by everybody, and I can't -- I can't thank enough people.
I don't know if I mentioned the bailiffs, but I want to thank them. And there's another group of people who you don't know who they are, but that's the jurors. And not just the jurors, but the alternates, the ones who didn't even get to serve to the very end, but people who were taken away from their families.
I want to thank the families of our jurors who sat here every single day for what seemed like long amounts of tedious monotonous information and evidence. Sometimes people didn't know what it meant. They didn't understand it and they had to sit there and process it and hear it over and over and over again.
And I want to thank these nameless jurors whose identities had been protected. They may make their identities available to all of you at some point, but they sat there, and they delivered justice tonight. And I want to thank them for their role in this process.
You know, Winston Churchill said --
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
WILSON: Democracy is the worst form of government except for every other kind. I kind of want to adopt that and say, we may have the worst criminal justice system in the world, but it is better than every other kind that there is. And our criminal justice system worked tonight. It gave a voice to Maggie and Paul Murdaugh, who were brutally mowed down and murdered on the night of June 7, 2021 by someone that they loved and someone that they trusted. And they couldn't be here to testify for themselves tonight. Their testimony came through the evidence and the information that was gathered by the men and women of the agencies I've just mentioned. It came from the testimony of the agents and the investigators and the attorneys and the folks in our staff who were able to get it to the Court record.
And so I want to say tonight, their voice was heard tonight, and justice was brought for them.
We can't bring them back, but we can bring them justice.
I started off my remarks by saying it is a good day in South Carolina. Today's verdict proves that no one -- no one, no matter who you are in society is above the law.
A lot of people doubted that this process would work and hopefully for those who did doubt the process, hopefully, we have instilled and put a little bit of faith back into you and your lives as you view this process as it unfolds.
I'm proud of this team. I'm proud of the men and women standing behind me tonight and there has been a lot of emotion. And I just want to say from the bottom of my heart, I saw firsthand for the last five or six weeks, the countless nights where you are up beyond midnight and you're getting up before dawn, not eating.
I was watching Nancy Grace the other night and I heard her call Creighton "pale and gaunt" because Creighton wasn't eating and sleeping. He really wasn't, folks, I'm serious.
You know, we would have to bring in Kind bars and things to eat during breaks, but Creighton Herculean effort, my friend, and I am truly honored to have you on our team.
Thank you for being a great leader and a great chief prosecutor. And I would like to invite you to come up here and make some remarks for the folks here tonight.
CREIGHTON WATERS, LEAD PROSECUTOR: Thanks, everybody and --
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
WATERS: I want to start by thanking this guy has given me and all these folks behind us opportunities to do justice, which is what we want to do with our careers. It is very tough and demanding, but it is rewarding for moments like these.
The General stole a lot of my lines, but I also want to thank the jurors for their long and arduous service. And we had no doubt that if we had a chance to present our case, in a Court of law, that they would see through the one last con that Alex Murdaugh was trying to pull and they did, and we're so grateful for that. I get to lead the State Grand Jury section in the Attorney General's Office. This particular case is not a State Grand Jury case. There are other indictments in our State Grand Jury. But the one thing about that is, is that I have an amazing team and I want to be clear, this was a team effort. You all saw all of these folks behind me doing amazing work. And I can't be prouder of a team in my life.
We called this our Super Bowl, and not because of the media attention, but just because of the effort that we knew that we would have to put into this, and we didn't really get to watch much of the Super Bowl that went on because when we arrived, I think it was winter, and it feels like spring now.
But every single member of this team, every single member of the State Grand Jury staff, what we do well is work together as a team in complex investigations and who we work with is my partners at SLED, and I can't thank them enough as well because we're used to working on these complex cases and working together.
And I'm not leaving out Sheriff Hill and the Colleton County Sheriff's Office, and our Federal partners in Orangeburg and Charleston Sheriff's Office, and all the other agencies that have worked on this case.
I also want to thank Miss Becky, if she's still up there, because she has been amazing. The clerk staff has been amazing. The Court staff has been amazing. The bailiffs have been amazing.
And again, I also want to thank this community who really has embraced us, and has been so great to us and made us able to survive this process that has been long and arduous, and I have been sleeping, I had and I have been eating more than Kind bars every now and then.
But -- and I'm sure that's a nice plug for Kind. But anyway, it really has been a great process. We will have sentencing tomorrow, obviously we're not going to comment on sentencing, because that's still pending. But justice was done today. It doesn't matter who your family is. It doesn't matter how much money you have or people think you have.
It doesn't matter what you think how prominent you are, if you do wrong, if you break the law, if you murder, then justice will be done in South Carolina and I think South Carolina has shown the nation and the world how a process can work and work well.
Thank you all.
WILSON: And also, I want to thank Creighton. I told Creighton, I said, Creighton, I am going to come down and I'm going to be just a staff attorney. I know I'm your boss. I am your boss's, boss's, boss, but I said I'm going to come down and I'm going to help and I said, I'm going to -- I'm going to follow instruction.
And I hope -- I hope I was true to my word.
This past weekend, I said, what can I do to help? I said, I'm willing to take a witness if it'll help. He said actually, it would. So he let an old prosecutor dust off his cleats and get back in the game and to help the team out.
WATERS: I got to be the boss of the boss for a while.
WILSON: Yes, don't get used to it.
WATERS: I am not used to it.
WILSON: No, but in all seriousness, I'm proud of the decisions that I made in putting the people behind me and to the left and right of me in charge of this case, and I was honored to be part of this team. Just another member, just another worker to be in the trenches trying to bring justice to the people of this State and to bring justice to the people who couldn't be here tonight because they were brutally murdered by someone they trusted.
Now with that being said, I know a lot of people want to talk to us, a lot of people want to talk to some of the attorneys and the support staff and the agents, investigators here tonight, some of you want to talk to me, and others, we're going to make ourselves available to you.
But like Mr. Waters just said, tomorrow, there is a sentencing hearing and we don't want to get out in front of our skis. And plus, I'm starting to feel the rain come down.
But I promise you, we're going to make ourselves available to talk to members of the media, to talk to all of you out there that have questions, we'll answer any questions that we ethically can. We hope you'll continue to be patient with us as we finish this process tomorrow.
Again, we're all going to go back and get a good night's sleep tonight. But again, thank you -- also one last group that we didn't thank, the media.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
WILSON: You all -- and I know a lot of people in this, you know, polarizing world we live in, a lot of people take shots at the media, but the media was incredibly respectful. You were so good, not just to us, but listen to the families of the victims.
Okay, I know this is an awkward situation. But you know, you protected the identities of people and you protected the process. And I want to thank you for your part in this and telling the stories, educating the public on what's going on out there.
So now I'm going to stop speaking as an Attorney General, I'm going to close as a father and as a husband, to say that when you go home tonight, hug your loved ones, hug your spouse, hug your children, because this case, if it reminds us of anything, that you just -- you can't take for granted that people in your family are always going to be there.
And right now, when I get home tomorrow, I'm going to hug mine and I hope you hug yours. But thank you again, thank you for your prayers. Thank you for your prayers. You came and prayed for me.
I see a lot of people coming to say "We're praying for you." We appreciate your prayers. Thank you all so much.
And this is going to conclude this press conference. We look forward to talking to all of you tomorrow. Thank you.
COOPER: That was South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson and also the lead prosecutor, Creighton Waters alongside other members of the prosecution speaking tonight in Walterboro, South Carolina.
The two, thanking numerous people, praising the criminal justice system that has delivered tonight's verdict.
Our Randi Kaye is on the scene at the Courthouse. She has been covering the trial all along.
Also joining us tonight, a team of legal experts, criminal defense attorney Mark O'Mara; CNN chief law enforcement intelligence analyst, John Miller; former Federal prosecutor Jessica Roth, who currently teaches at New York's Cardozo Law School of Law; CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney, Joey Jackson; also jury consultant Jill Huntley Taylor.
Jessica, let me just start off with everybody here. Did you have any idea it would be this quick the deliberations and this result?
JESSICA ROTH, NEW YORK CARDOZO LAW SCHOOL LAW PROFESSOR AND FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I'm not surprised by the result. I am surprised by the speed. In fact, I'm shocked by the speed. I never anticipated that we would have a guilty verdict within three hours.
COOPER: This was a complex trial with a lot of witnesses, a lot of evidence.
ROTH: Well, what the speed suggests to me that the jury didn't see it as being that complicated at all, actually, and at the end of the day, it was pretty straightforward. It really amounted to the video of the defendant at the kennels that was on Paul's phone that he didn't know existed until fairly recently.
The lie that he told to the police officers about not being at the kennels, even though he was caught on the videotape being at the kennels and the timeline. The fact that he had the opportunity to commit the murder, and really nobody else plausibly did. That's what it came down to. That's pretty straightforward.
COOPER: I want to show -- we're showing that video -- I don't know if we, okay, well, as soon as we have the sound of it, we'll show you in full. Okay, here, you can hear.
[VIDEO CLIP PLAYS] COOPER: Joey, let's talk about the importance of this video. This was a video that Alex Murdaugh did not know existed until into the trial or at some point in the investigation. This was his son's testimony, essentially. This proved that Alex Murdaugh was at the scene very close to the killing.
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, damning evidence and when you spin a narrative and you don't know what lies around the corner that might contradict the narrative you're spinning, which is I wasn't there, it becomes a problem. Why would you say you weren't there? What motivation would you have to lie?
And so when you have the video, which connects him to the scene, the prosecution talked then to send a lot about something we all lawyers talk about, common sense. What is the human element and human factor? What do we experience every day as people?
And ultimately they said, you know what? He lied before, he continues to lie. He looked his clients in the eye and lied to them. He is lying to us. He's guilty. That's what they said through that verdict.
COOPER: We have some video in the Courtroom people identifying the voice on that video because in the background, you hear Alex Murdaugh speaking and that is what the evidence showed that he was at the scene. The defense contradicted that, said in fact it was not Alex Murdaugh's voice.
Let's listen to some of the testimony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WATERS: And did you hear -- recognize the voices on there?
ROGAN GIBSON, FAMILY FRIEND: I did.
WATERS: Did you recognize the voices of your second family?
GIBSON: I did.
WATERS: And what voices Did you hear?
GIBSON: Paul's, Miss Maggie, and Mr. Alex.
WATERS: And how sure are you now?
WATERS: A hundred percent?
GIBSON: That's correct.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Mark O'Mara, he -- Alex Murdaugh essentially had to take the witness stand in order to clear this up and to change his story and to say that he had been lying. MARK O'MARA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: That one piece of evidence may have been the tipping point for why he had to get on the stand. As Joey knows, we all know, it is very difficult to put a criminal defendant on the stand because they can be the state's best witness. It turned out to be in this case, exactly that.
Without that video, it may have been a balancing of not putting him on the stand and submitting him to cross examination. But he had to explain away this video and like you say, this was Paul's testimony and it was a testimony the jury listened to very loudly, very clearly, and with a three-hour verdict, very quickly.
COOPER: John, what did you -- are you surprised by this?
JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, no, because I watched much of the trial. But the second thing is, you know, when you have a criminal trial, and you have a fast verdict, often that is a verdict in favor of the prosecution, in my experience.
But, you know, you look at the case, it's a circumstantial case. The alternative theory to the circumstantial case was pretty weak. And you have a defendant who is on the stand, who is established in that storyline as being a liar, a cheater, and someone who steals and when he takes the stand, a lot of that is riding on his credibility.
So there were a number of factors here that made a case that had its weak spots, really hard to get around.
COOPER: In terms of sentencing, and that's -- what does the Judge take into account?
ROTH: Well, the Judge is going to take into account first and foremost, the evidence that was introduced at the case about the murders, the facts and circumstances, the manner of the killing. The Judge already tipped his hand a bit today by saying after the verdict came in, when he was denying the defense motion to set aside the verdict based on insufficient evidence that he thought the evidence was overwhelming.
And I thought who the Judge had been really so sort of even tempered and calm throughout the trial, he remained calm, but I thought he sort of showed his view of the evidence at last when he characterized it as overwhelming.
COOPER: We actually heard from Buster Murdaugh, the only surviving son of Alex Murdaugh, I want to play just a little bit of him on the stand if we had that video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WATERS: They did them so bad -- do you remember that?
BUSTER MURDAUGH, ALEX MURDAUGH'S SON: Yes, sir.
WATERS: Do you recognize your dad's voice?
BUSTER MURDAUGH: I do.
WATERS: If you listened to it, would you be able to tell the jury whether it's I or they?
BUSTER MURDAUGH: Yes, sir.
WATERS: Your Honor, I'd like to like pull up Exhibit 153, the clip.
[VIDEO CLIP PLAYS]
WATERS: What did your dad say?
BUSTER MURDAUGH: He said, "They did them so bad. They did them so bad."
WATERS: Is that the first time you had heard him say "They did them so bad."
BUSTER MURDAUGH: Yes, sir.
WATERS: When was the first time you heard him say "They did them so bad."
BUSTER MURDAUGH: First time I heard him say that was the night that I went down to Moselle, the night of June 7th.
WATERS: Did he say that more than one time?
BUSTER MURDAUGH: He did.
WATERS: One second, Your Honor, let me check to see what I left out.
Just very briefly, Buster, you've heard testimony during this trial that your dad was stealing money from clients.
BUSTER MURDAUGH: Yes, sir.
WATERS: Did you know anything about that?
BUSTER MURDAUGH: No, sir.
WATERS: And just lastly, roughly how long would it take to clean up a dog run down at the kennels, two dog runs for example?
BUSTER MURDAUGH: Roughly, I'd say 10 minutes or so.
WATERS: Okay. And what do you have to do?
BUSTER MURDAUGH: You've got to get the hose, turn the hose on, spray out. Spray out the dog kennels. You've got to, you know, put the bed on top of the wooden box so the bed is not wet.
WATERS: Now, what are you spraying? Dog manure?
BUSTER MURDAUGH: Yes, spraying dog poop.
WATERS: And it spreads out and you've got --
BUSTER MURDAUGH: That's right. Yes, you've got to spray it. Make sure it's all out of there. Spray it to the bat.
WATERS: All right, thank you. That's all I have, Your Honor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Joey, what's interesting about hearing from Burster Murdaugh and again video playing such a crucial role, whether or not Alex Murdaugh and it'll be interesting to see whether the jury believed that Alex Murdaugh was saying "I did them so bad" or if this turned out to be an important piece.
JACKSON: Yes, I mean, listen. The theory was that this was a confession. That's what the prosecution was adopting as the notion to introduce this that he was saying, right in on the video, "I did them so bad." So now you have to bring his son in to say no, he said "They did him so bad." Did you hear him say that before? Yes, I heard my dad say that before trying to go to the notion that "they" whoever "they" is, of course, we know the theory of the defense was that there were multiple shooters, that there were other people who meant him harm, him, right, being Paul, in addition to right, the mom. And so therefore, I think that's what they had to clarify. Obviously, that wasn't enough.
I think last thing, you know, Anderson, I think it came down to the credibility and the lack of trust. I think this was a defendant who admitted what he had to admit and denied what he had to deny. And as we discussed before, when you go down an avenue when you're creating a story, and then all of a sudden videos pop up that suggest that you're there. That's something that you just cannot overcome, particularly when you say and admit you lied to everyone in your life. Why would you not be lying to that jury?
COOPER: Let's play that video, again, just the sound of Alex Murdaugh, in the police vehicles. And what he actually said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OFFICER: When Paul's phone came out, did you just pick it up and put it on? You placed it back down on the floor.
ALEX MURDAUGH, FOUND GUILTY OF KILLING WIFE AND SON: You know, yes, I did not try to open it or anything, you know, I just -- I don't know how I had in my mind that I needed to not mess anything up. I had that. I had that, you know?
Somehow I had that presence of mind and I needed to not mess anything up. And so I tried not to.
OFFICER: And then you definitely saw a traumatic picture. And I know it's not hard or not easy. I know it's hard.
And sitting here talking today is tough.
ALEX MURDAUGH: It's just so bad. "(I) did it so bad."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So that was the -- that was the key moment.
Mark O'Mara, how important -- I mean, I don't know if we will ever get an answer from the jury about what they thought of that moment, but how important was that piece of video, do you think?
O'MARA: I will tell you truth the truth. I thought that was a weak moment for the State to try and present that as a confession. Now, a Freudian slip confession, possibly, but I don't think that they should have really focused on that as being some massive confession of him because quite honestly, there is a couple of interpretations of it. And with a circumstantial evidence case, you have to be a little bit careful with the jury going beyond, and in fact, the permission they give you.
They put together a very good case. I didn't think that was particularly compelling. I thought I heard the word "I" rather than "They." But again, I don't think it really mattered too much. I think that they needed to put together the case that they did, and this was a compelling component of it.
COOPER: I want to bring into jury consultant, Jill Huntley Taylor. You know, Jill, it is so fascinating to see these videos now of Alex Murdaugh breaking down whether it's in that police vehicle breaking down the night of the killings, the breaking down on the stand, with the realization that certainly the jury believes he was lying all along and did in fact murder these people, his wife and his son.
Talk a little bit about just, you know, as somebody who is a jury consultant about this, the deliberations they took. Were you surprised by the speed of this?
JILL HUNTLEY TAYLOR, JURY CONSULTANT: In hindsight, no. Now, that we know what the verdict is, the three hours, they must have all agree, they must not have had any doubt.
You know, I think all of the testimony that they saw, all the science, the technology, the emotion was a lot for them to have to deal with and so I think we all going into their deliberations expected that a hundred witnesses and all of his testimony, there'll be a lot for them to pour over.
But you know, at the end of the day, they must have all really been on the same page going right up from the start. So that's why their deliberations were pretty quick.
COOPER: It is extraordinary the career this man has had. I mean, this is the oldest of old boy networks in this part of South Carolina. His great grandfather was the prosecutor. His grandfather was the prosecutor. His father was the prosecutor. I mean it is an extraordinary, you know, I mean God knows what they were doing over the last hundred years when they were the power in this community, but we see what he has done with the limited power that he had. I mean, he was defrauding people right and left.
ROTH: Well, it seems that the line ends with him. But one of the things that I thought was so extraordinary about this trial throughout were the -- sort of the personal references from the lawyers, for example, to the defendant's father and grandfather.
You know, when the defendant's son Buster was on the stand, the prosecutor who was questioning him, cross examination, expressed sorrow for Buster's losses and mentioned Buster's grandfather, I believe, and how the prosecutor had worked under him and the solicitor's office. And he was very good to me.
And there were a number of references to family members throughout the trial and I thought that was just a fascinating layer of this that showed sort of the local sort of aspect of this and how important this family had been ingrained in law enforcement for so many generations.
COOPER: John, I mean, somebody who's been involved in investigations, it's -- I mean, when you see the series of events that took place before these killings of -- from his son Paul crashing a boat in which somebody was killed, and then there was questions about who was actually driving the boat.
Was it Paul? Was it somebody else? Did law enforcement kind of protect Paul in a way? Did they not do a good job of actually ascertaining who was driving, a dead body of a young gay man in the road, some perhaps connection to the Murdaugh family --
JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: The housekeeper falling downstairs.
COOPER: The housekeeper -- yes.
MILLER: The money being stolen from the insurance company. I mean, what you get here --
COOPER: Him allegedly paying somebody to shoot him in the head, who turned out to be a distant cousin and it wasn't as presented.
MILLER: Right, exactly. First he tried to fake his own murder. But I mean, you see that that there's this pattern of, you know, getting away with murder, which, you know, didn't include getting away with this murder.
And I think one of the differences is you may have all that influence, you may have all those friends, you may have the family connections and the money, but as a great Supreme Court Justice said a long time ago, the best antiseptic is a bright and shining light. And there was a lot of attention on this case. There was no getting away with this murder. COOPER: Yes. We're going to take a short break. Our coverage continues in just a moment.
COOPER: The stunning breaking news tonight, Alex Murdaugh, whose defense was that he's a liar but not a murderer, has been convicted of murdering his wife and son. Jurors not buying it. Reaching a remarkably speedy verdict in just three hours after trial that saw the prosecution recreate the crime step by terrible step. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, is this door the same width as the feed room door?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the couple of inches wider than the feed room door.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And of course, the feed room door doesn't have this (INAUDIBLE), you know, as inset, correct?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is correct.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So this is not exactly a replication of what happened at the feed room door, correct?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, sir, it's not. The door swings the same direction, though.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, you have given me permission -- I'm very careful about muzzle velocity -- I'm sorry, muzzle awareness, but you've given me permission to point this to you, correct?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. You actually asked me to, correct?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir, I did.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. So go in there and stand a couple of feet back. It doesn't have to be 5 feet. But you have since testified that Paul was 5 feet inside the feed room, correct?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can we demonstrate the first shot out here (INAUDIBLE)?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Stand back a little bit because you got to stumble toward me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I'm going to point like I'm pointing at you. Paul is shot. Where is the shooter approximately outside the door? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The reach face or the ejection port is shot down is just past the door frame.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Paul has just been shot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then, in the defense's theory, walk -- you tell me what to do and you act this out and I'm going to do what you tell me to do based on the defense's theory of the case.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The defense agreed with the assessment that Paul stood there for a moment, bleeding down his injured left arm and he slowly walked toward the door.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, and what does the shooter do?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The shooter is coming in the door.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then what does the shooter do?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He shoots Paul in the back of the head after he passes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. And then shoots Paul in the back of the head like this. And where does the blood spatter go? The blood spatter, the pellet defects, and one that I didn't know about, that the expert collected within the door frame at the top of the door.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, I understand this is a little different than the feed room door. That's the best we can do. But what did you find odd about the theory, first of all?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the theory is preposterous, in my opinion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Mark O'Mara, that was probably among the most effective parts of the prosecution's presentation, wasn't it?
MARK O'MARA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, it really is for a number of reasons. Don't forget, we as people, and certainly jurors, we learn by seeing. You know, by hearing is OK, but, you know, you listen to it, you might get most of it. But when you see it and you really understand it, that's what you remember constantly.
And that's what the jury remembers, both when they were seeing it and when they went back to the jury room to talk about it. So I love and I like using demonstrative tools in a courtroom because we learned by seeing, and I thought that was very, very effective. And then his testimony after it supports the visualization.
COOPER: How effective do you guys think it was?
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So it's important because remember what was happening here. What was happening that was an expert, by the way, from the prosecution who was doing that. It's demonstrative, right?
COOPER: And it came after a defense crime scene expert.
JACKSON: Exactly. And so remember what they were talking about, which was that it was a 5'2". It would have to be someone who was a lot shorter. And remember, the prosecutor was mocking that, talking --
COOPER: Right. The defense expert said there's no way a 6'4" person, which is Alex Murdaugh, would have been able to fire from that angle the gun that was used.
JACKSON: Correct. They would had to have -- it would be overly low. It would be just unsustainable, and it couldn't happen. And so, at issue was whether or not, of course, defense was trying to exclude the notion that a person of the height of Alex Murdaugh would have committed this crime.
And then, of course, this was the come back, and the comeback of the prosecution was nonsense. And essentially that expert pretty much said it's preposterous. What they're suggesting, they being the defense, that it would be this 5'2" persons, too many variables.
So I thought that absolutely was effective at demonstrating to the jury that the notion that the defense had with respect to the height of the shooter was just nonsensical.
ROTH: I agree. I think that was a moment where the defense just lost a lot of credibility because their forensic theory of why it would have been a shooter of a different height or two shooters really sort of went down the drain at that point.
I mean, you heard the witness say it was a preposterous theory and they showed how it was preposterous by reenacting it. It involved the shooter sort of pushing past Paul as the victim into this narrow doorway to go behind him and then shoot him from inside this narrow space, which really made no sense. And he just explained then after the demonstration in words why it was preposterous. So I thought that was a really important moment.
COOPER: John, you were saying during the break about the expectations that we've all, you know, we watch CSI, we see, you know, a crime in a big city and how many cameras there are. Talk about that a little bit.
MILLER: I mean, I think jurors, even in a place like North Carolina where they are watching, you know, these stories, are used to these seamless cases where, you know, you have the video canvas that's done after the fact. And you see the defendant leaving his house, and you see him getting into the car, and then they present the license plate reader evidence that tracks the car everywhere along the way.
Then you see the video of them getting out. Then you see the cell phone tracking. And these cases really can be seamless in an environment of a 1,700-acre farm that doesn't have security cameras everywhere where the cell phone evidence was presented. But it was confusing and spotty. You've got a really circumstantial case.
And I think that the defense struggled. I mean, that last scene we just looked at where they're taking apart the defense's kind of tortured theory by demonstrating it looks almost impossible if you try to reenact it that way, is on top of the idea that both guns came from the property. Why would the killers not bring their own guns? Why would the killers have the ability to know that the mom and the son would be at that spot at that time?
How would they know that? If the idea was that the killers showed up because they knew they could access weapons from the property because those weapons wouldn't be traced to them, why were the weapons missing after the fact? If you didn't want them traced to you, why would you take them?
There was just so much in terms of the pile on things that one fact might have been an explanation to fill a gap, but together, they couldn't harmonize them to make sense.
JACKSON: Including shell casings that --
MILLER: From those weapons --
MILLER: -- that were found on the property, not from the shooting, from prior shot fire.
COOPER: Jill Huntley, as a jury consultant, what's so fascinating is that there were two weapons. The defense was saying, well, you know, that's evidence of two shooters. What it may be evidence of, if the jury is correct, and, I mean, Alex Murdaugh is now -- has been convicted of killing his wife and son. Is that this was thought out and perhaps intentional that he was using -- it was staged, that he was intentionally using --
MILLER: (INAUDIBLE) two shooters.
COOPER: Right. And it does seem -- Jill, I just want to ask you, though, as a jury consultant, how do demonstrations like that, I mean, in your experience, are they particularly effective on juries?
JILL HUNTLEY TAYLOR, JURY CONSULTANT: Oh, absolutely. I completely agree that jurors need visuals and to act something out, especially with a witness like this, who was a very credible witness, who definitely connected and made commonsense -- made a commonsense presentation to the jury. And then the jury goes to Moselle. And even though the defense asked for that, the jury now can specifically visualize where this took place. So -- but that was an interesting strategy.
COOPER: The premeditation, John, of this now is so fascinating to -- we now did -- now that we have this conviction, you look back at all the steps that Alex Murdaugh took, calling his friends to say, oh, I've invited, you know, I'm going down to see, you know, my family to call up his friends. And he tried to call one friend to tell him he was going to go visit his mom. He called other people to try to basically layout alibis all along the way.
MILLER: Very much like we just discussed with the two guns. You know, well, let me make it look like it appears it's two people, and yet, you know, look at those two elements. That his own son, the murder victim, may have inadvertently solved the case with that piece of video and his wife, who, you know, they were in the throats of having a very difficult time.
The son had found the pills in the computer bag and, you know, his $60,000 a week, you know, oxy habit. The wife was saying, you know, this was a betrayal. There were financial people closing in on these other frauds, where, you know, if she went south from him, that was going to be a problem.
And, I mean, she texts, she messages somebody as she's going to the farm, you know, well, we'll all drive separately. No, let's drive together. You come here. He's setting this up, and she messages somebody and says, I'm going to the farm to meet him there. It seems fishy.
COOPER: She miss her sister --
COOPER: -- who actually testifies, and her sister feels incredibly guilty on the stand saying she actually encouraged her sister to go that night to see her husband.
MILLER: But, I mean, you can see the elements of him building a storyline ahead of time, setting up the movements.
COOPER: And even going to visit his mother, establishing an alibi, a mother who, you know, has Alzheimer's and is not going to be testifying against him. There was a nurse present who did testify.
ROTH: Yes. I think the defendant, in some ways, made himself more vulnerable to this -- the prosecution theory that he was staging an alibi when from the beginning, when he's interviewed by the investigators of the night of the murders, he says, check my phone, check my phone. That'll tell you the times of things.
And so he was urging them to go look for the digital trail. He had -- it just made it clear he was thinking about his digital footprint from the beginning.
COOPER: Randi, I want to bring you in. You've been following this from the beginning. We were just showing the video from the night of the killings when law enforcement arrives on the scene and you see -- that we're showing them again, you see Alex Murdaugh wandering around.
This moment is incredibly important in terms of what he says, do you think?
RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Because not only what he says, Anderson. First of all, he says he talks about when he saw his family last, which now we know is a lie, but it's what he's wearing that is really critical. He's in a white t shirt and shorts, khaki shorts in that video. And that's at 10:06 p.m. after he called 911.
It took them a little while to get there, but it's after that. But earlier in the night at 07:56 p.m., his son Paul again providing video evidence. There was a Snapchat video that he sent to friends, and it shows Alex Murdaugh at a tree. They were having some tree problems. He was -- the tree was falling over. And you hear Paul Murdoch on the other end of the Snapchat video laughing.
But you see Alex Murdaugh, and he's wearing long pants and a blue short sleeve shirt, very different than what he was wearing just a couple of hours later. So he was asked many, many times, Anderson, when did he changed --
COOPER: And that clothing has not been found, is that correct?
KAYE: Exactly. They've never found. And that was part of what the defense went after the prosecution for. They never did test that clothing. They never found that clothing. So how do they know if there was blood on it or gunshot residue. But they never found the khaki pants, they never found the blue shirt, and they never found the murder weapons.
Those two shotguns, the shotgun and the 300-blackout rifle have also been missing, so -- but it's the key. That clothing change was a big thing for the jury. You could watch them reacting when they were talking about it and he was trying to make excuses for -- to -- when he decided to change or shower.
COOPER: I can't recall. Did Alex Murdaugh have an explanation or did the defense have an explanation for the disappearance of those clothes?
KAYE: No. Well, the defense tried to say, you know, how do you know they're missing? He left Moselle that night, the property where this happened, that's what it's called. He left and he went to his mother's house. Did you see what he took to his mother's house? They were asking this of the housekeeper because she was the one who said, I never saw those clothes again.
So they were trying to say he never spent another night at Moselle. So you don't know what he took when he left or where those clothes might be.
COOPER: Interesting. We're going to take another short break. We'll be right back with more breaking news coverage of the guilty verdict in the Alex Murdaugh murder trial.
COOPER: The breaking news of this hour, Alex Murdaugh, convicted on all four charges, including two counts of murdering his wife and son. Right point blank. Another key moment from the trial, his brother John Marvin Murdaugh, testifying about cleaning up the crime scene.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN MARVIN MURDAUGH, BROTHER OF ALEX MURDAUGH: It had not been cleaned up. I saw blood, I saw brains, I saw pieces of skull. And when I say brains, it could just be tissue. I don't know what I was saying. It was terrible. And for some reason, I thought it was mud, something that I needed to do for Paul to clean it up.
I felt like I owed him, and I started cleaning. And I promise you, no mother or father or aunt or uncle should ever have to see and do what I did that day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And here with our legal team, Jury Consultant Jill Huntley Taylor, let me ask you, that's obviously a very emotional moment, and clearly the defense wanted it to be an emotional moment on the jury, and yet it's fascinating now to look at it and look at Alex Murdaugh crying there or mimicking crying there.
It clearly did not have that big an impact on the jury. I mean, a sad moment, but it didn't show or at least we haven't talked to the jury, but it didn't seem to show what the defense wanted it to, besides the emotion of it, which was that the investigators, you know, had had a sloppy crime scene.
TAYLOR: Right, right. And there was a lot of motion in this trial, right? You know, the family members, Buster, we showed that earlier, and Alex cried a lot. But you can cry for a lot of reasons, and I guess the juries could see that as well. You can cry because you're guilty. You can cry because this is just awful what you're going through.
You know, it's not just -- they didn't see it as a crime because he lost his wife and son. They just obviously didn't see it that way.
COOPER: And John, I mean, you've been on a lot of crime scenes. I've been on a couple. It is not -- I mean, I don't know why I harp on this, but the police don't cleanup crime scenes like families clean up -- the families mop up the blood of their loved ones all the time.
MILLER: I mean, the building, the -- there are companies, literally companies you can hire that do crime scene cleanup, but, you know, families do it. It's the -- the police, you know, they collect the evidence, and what they leave behind, they leave behind.
JACKSON: But it's a bigger picture. What the defense was attempting to establish is that, that's one more thing that SLED did inappropriately. What are they talking about? They talked about the lack of getting any type of prints at all. The lack of looking and investigating any tire tracks, the lack of doing anything that would suggest it was anyone other than Alex Murdaugh who had committed this crime.
And so I think what they were trying to establish was it wasn't even that, hey, we have an obligation to clean up the crime scene. They had an obligation to do their job at the crime scene, which was to determine whether there was any other evidence which would be suggestive of anyone else having committed this offense. And that's the point the defense was attempting to make. Apparently, the jury didn't buy it.
COOPER: And Jessica, I mean, the police did put out a statement very soon after this saying the community shouldn't be concerned.
ROTH: Yes, I thought that was actually one of the pieces of evidence and lines of argument that I thought might get more traction that the defense had advanced. They said the police put out this press release the morning after the murders.
COOPER: So the defense alleging that the police were narrowly focused on Alex Murdaugh --
COOPER: -- unfairly from the -- yes.
ROTH: They thought the press release demonstrated that the police had narrowed their focus to Alex Murdaugh and the murderer. And that showed that the police were not going to follow up on any other leads. And again, reinforcing what Joey said, that this was, they argued a sloppy, lazy investigation.
COOPER: All right. Everyone, stay with us. Much more head on the Alex Murdaugh guilty verdict. We're going through the next hour on this. A jury convicting him of killing his wife and youngest son. An extraordinary day in court of some three hours they deliberated.
360's Randi Kaye shows us how we got to this point next.