Return to Transcripts main page

At This Hour

Murdaugh's Defense Delivers Closing Arguments In Murder Trial; Alarm Grows Amid Reports That Hundreds Of Schoolgirls Were Poisoned; SpaceX Launches New Crew Of Astronauts To Intl Space Station. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired March 02, 2023 - 11:30   ET




AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: At this hour, Alex Murdaugh's defense attorney is delivering closing arguments in his double murder trial. The defense is trying to raise a reasonable doubt about whether or not Murdaugh killed his wife and son. This morning's precede, however, started with drama involving a juror being removed. Dianne Gallagher live outside the courthouse in South Carolina. Talk about some last- minute drama, Dianne. Take us inside and tell us what happened.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Amara. For what is happening right this moment, the defense is a little more than an hour into its closing arguments. As we suspected, Attorney Jim Griffin has essentially been talking to the jurors about reasonable doubt what it is making sure that they are aware of it. He told them if there is any reasonable cause for you to hesitate to write guilty, then the law requires you to write not guilty. This is what we expected from him.

The other part of his closing arguments so far, he has been going bit by bit against the state's case trying to refute it, but spending the substantial portion of this argument thus far speaking about the investigation. Essentially, this is this overarching theme that the defense has tried to play into this trial here that the law enforcement response and subsequent investigation was incomplete, messy, and just downright not good. And he has been trying to hit home on that each time to the jurors.


JIM GRIFFIN, MURDAUGH'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: What we know is three out of those four things that was presented to the Colleton County grand jury that you're going to be deliberating on for the indictments that return aren't true. No blood spatter, no GSR rain jacket that's ever been connected to Alex whatsoever, and there's no loaded gun. So, we're left with the lie. We are left with the lie.



GALLAGHER: And, of course, that lie was the bombshell testimony, Alex Murdaugh himself admitted on the stand last week that he was in fact down at the kennels before he found the bodies with Paul and Maggie Murdaugh, where they were killed. He had told everybody up until he got on the stand that he wasn't including investigators, family, and friends. But a video found on his son's Paul -- his son, Paul's phone outed him, essentially because his voice was identified by more than half a dozen of those witnesses. The defense though again, saying that just because you are a liar, just because you're a thief, that doesn't make you a murderer.

Amara, you mentioned that juror being dismissed this morning. We only have one alternate -- (AUDIO GAP). The judge said that they had determined the juror had been speaking with other people about the case, not necessarily in-depth, but had potentially offered their opinion on evidence in the trial. She was dismissed this morning.

WALKER: All right, Dianne Gallagher, unclear who that's going to benefit or hurt, but I appreciate your reporting. Thank you very much.

Joining me now is CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson. He is a criminal defense attorney. I just want to get your take on that, first of all, Joey, regarding this juror who was removed this morning. I mean, now you have -- replacing this juror, an alternate sitting in. Does that -- how does that impact you know the case or does it help the prosecution versus the defense in any way this late in the game?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, it doesn't, Amara. Good morning to you. What happens is is that you have a jury and panels of 12, of course, who will deliberate and have to be unanimous, but you always, in a jury trial, select alternate jurors. Why? For this very reason. You may have a juror excused as there was the case for misconduct or you may have people who are sick, have other obligations, the trial goes on so long.

So, the reason you pick alternate jurors is to have that pool in place in the event, right? For example, you're missing other jurors. And so, to this point, it wouldn't affect that at all. You have 12 and additional one. The trial is closing up. Could something happen to another jury at some -- a juror excuse me, at some point in the future? Absolutely. How long will they deliberate? We don't know.

But at this point, it would not affect them the whole basis and per purpose, Amara. To have alternates is to leave the integrity of the process in place, anticipating that something can happen to a jury. So, we're good as of now.

WALKER: So, yes, what we're watching are the closing arguments from the defense and of course, the jury is expected to begin deliberations as soon as today, Joey. So, look, the defense's job is to either get a not guilty verdict or to have a -- have raised enough doubt to avoid a guilty verdict. I want you to listen to the closing argument parts of it by Defense Attorney Jim Griffin.


GRIFFIN: When you get this case, probably later this afternoon, you'll be making one of the most consequential decisions that you will have ever made in your life. If there's any reasonable cause for you to hesitate to write guilty, then the law requires you to write not guilty.


WALKER: Of a role does having mostly circumstantial evidence versus direct -- not having direct evidence, how much does that play into raising enough doubt in the minds of the jurors?

JACKSON: So, it could be significant, but we have to be clear on a couple of things, right? The first of which is that you do not reward, the prosecution certainly will argue, a person who may be cunning enough to get away with murder, not suggesting he's guilty, that'll be their job. But you don't reward a defendant because there's no one there to say he did it. And there are 10 eyewitnesses.

And so oftentimes, in cases, you have circumstantial evidence. Circumstantial evidence is evidence. It's not direct. It's not someone saying I saw the person right in the white shirt. And I saw them in the khaki shorts at the time committed murder, but it's other evidence that points to a certain event.

You heard the prosecutor speak to the issue of rain, right? And his closing argument saying and the event really, you come inside, and it wasn't wet, but you go out and there's rain all over the place. It's not raining but there's water, you could conclude it rain.

And so, circumstantial evidence are circumstances that point to different pieces of a person who actually did it. And so, although the case is predicated, Amara, on circumstantial and not direct evidence, it could still be very powerful and compelling, depending upon what the jury ultimately concludes.

WALKER: That's been really a fascinating case. Joey Jackson, we're out of time. Thank you so much for yours.

JACKSON: Always.

WALKER: All right. Well, hundreds of school girls reportedly poisoned in Iran. Symptoms including muscle weakness, nausea, and shortness of breath. A live report next.



WALKER: An alarming mystery is unfolding in Iran. Hundreds of schoolgirls sickened over the past few months, some even being hospitalized. Their symptoms include muscle weakness, numbness, and shortness of breath. It's reportedly the result of poisoning, perhaps deliberate poisoning, according to some senior officials and local activists.

Nima Elbagir joining us now with the details. Nima, I mean, what do we know about this? NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: We have actually been able to communicate with some survivors, students, and their parents. And they are telling us that they have been told strictly by authorities in Iran not to speak to the media but bravely, some of them are sharing with us what happens in the aftermath of these attacks. Take a listen to this, Amara.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking in a foreign language)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a terrible situation. Girls had been falling on the floor and were crying. Some were unable to walk, really didn't want to leave one another.


ELBAGIR: Many of them believe that it is not a coincidence that these attacks are targeting schools where girls have been involved in the anti-hijab process. One student said to us, it can't be a coincidence that this came after we painted protest slogans and sang protest songs. They believe that it is absolutely linked, Amara.

WALKER: Oh, my gosh, just hearing that these -- some of these girls could not walk -- I mean, these are just school girls. What happens now, Nima?

ELBAGIR: Well, what's been quite interesting is that the Iranian authorities, their narrative has been shifting over the months that these incidents have been happening. But they've gone now from saying that this is some -- that this was some kind of rumor-mongering hysteria to just finally this week, as the attacks continued as recently as yesterday were over a hundred girls reported feeling these symptoms, Amara, finally, Iranian authorities are saying that they will be carrying out investigations even going so far as to say that they're going to investigate local operatives who pulled back on the hijab of a parent who became agitated while she was crying and seeking answers at her daughter's school.

There is a real sense that authorities are walking on a knife-edge on this because these are almost a thousand pupils. And that's -- those are the numbers that the Iranian regime itself is giving. So, God knows how many are really out there. The worry for the girls is that there are no answers but that this could just fundamentally be about intimidating them not only out of not taking part in the protest but about their futures, Amara.

WALKER: Oh my gosh, that -- the numbers are staggering, nearly a thousand. Nima, I really appreciate you being on the story. And I know that you'll be pushing for answers and accountability. Thank you so much, Nima Elbagir.

ELBAGIR: Thank you. WALKER: All right, coming up. A successful SpaceX and NASA launch. The crew on their way to the International Space Station. And we'll also talk about those kissing planets. But first, here's Dr. Sanjay Gupta with some ways to help prevent vision loss in today's "CHASING LIFE."


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey there I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta, host of CNN's "CHASING LIFE" podcast.

Here's a common misconception. Many things vision loss as you age is a given. It isn't. You can and should do everything you can to keep your eyes set. If you smoke, try and quit. There are several studies which find that smokers are two to four times as likely to develop macular degeneration. That's versus people who never picked up a cigarette.

Also, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight can help prevent diabetes, the chief cause of vision impairment that can lead to blindness. Finally, remember, you are what you eat here. Dark leafy greens like spinach, collard greens, and kale contain the antioxidants, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which seemed to lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends a baseline eye exam beginning at age 40. Make sure you get those exams. Left untreated vision loss can lead to cognitive decline, even dementia because as you might imagine, were vision limits participation in physical and social activities. Things known to be important to preventing dementia.

You can hear more about how to optimize your health and chase life wherever you get your podcasts.




WALKER: A new crew of astronauts is on its way to the International Space Station after a SpaceX and NASA launch overnight.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five, four, three, two, one. It is full power and liftoff. (INAUDIBLE) Go, Dragon. Go, Falcon.


WALKER: It's always so spectacular to see. The crew six mission is carrying three astronauts and one cosmonaut to space for roughly six months.

CNN's Kristin Fisher joining me now with more. Hi, Kristin. So, tell us more about you know, once they get there, what's the crew going to do aboard the International Space Station? KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're going to be up there for about six months. And they're really going to be conducting a lot of scientific experiments in microgravity. They also have to deal with keeping up the space station which is now about 20 years old, it has some wear and tear. So, they got to do some spacewalks to keep up with that maintenance.

But what a gorgeous launch last night lifting off shortly after midnight, after the first launch attempt failed due to just some issues with essentially the lighter fluid, the ignition fluid to launch that Falcon 9 rocket into space. SpaceX fix that problem, and that's what brought us this picture-perfect launch last night. And those astronauts, two NASA astronauts, one Russian cosmonaut, and one astronaut from the United Arab Emirates should be arriving at the International Space Station around 1:00 a.m. this morning. Amara.

WALKER: Very cool. I know you've been watching that closely. And, Kristin, tell us a little bit more about that cosmic kiss that some of us noticed in the night sky.

FISHER: It was hard to miss. It's actually called The Venus Jupiter Conjunction and it is when Venus and Jupiter get very close to one another.


And essentially, you know, if you think of the planets on like a race track, this is essentially the planet closer to the Sun, Venus, passing a planet farther from the Sun, Jupiter. But what makes this one so cool and the reason it really took, you know, social media by storm was essentially the fact that these are two of the brightest things that you ever see in the night sky, very close to one another. So, it just looks really neat. And if you want to see it again tonight, it's not too late. It won't be quite as close as last night but you still should get a pretty good sight, Amara.

WALKER: Oh, that is so cool. There are some cool apps out there where you can actually use your phone to use -- to see you know where the planets are. My husband has that so we use it all the time. Well, we lighten up.

FISHER: I do too.

WALKER: Yes, very cool. Kristin Fisher, good to see you. Thank you so much.

FISHER: Good to see you.

WALKER: And thank you for watching. I'm Amara Walker. "INSIDE POLITICS WITH JOHN KING" starts after the break.