Return to Transcripts main page
CNN Live Event/Special
Murdaugh Double-Murder Trial: Key Pieces Of Evidence; Mark O'Mara On The Murdaugh Double-Murder Trial; Examining Key Pieces Of Evidence: Video From Scene Of Murders. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired March 01, 2023 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALEX MURDAUGH, NOW-DISBARRED SOUTH CAROLINA ATTORNEY: I can promise you, I would hurt myself before I would hurt one of them.
LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR AND SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST (voice-over): The Alex Murdaugh trial in the Deep South, captivating the nation.
MURDAUGH: There are a lot of conversations I had, where I misled my clients, and I stole their money.
COATES (voice-over): A case of wealth, power, privilege, and murder.
MURDAUGH: Once I lied, I continue to lie.
COATES (voice-over): But is there enough evidence to convict the man, at the center of it all?
MURDAUGH: I didn't shoot my wife or my son anytime. Ever.
COATES (voice-over): Tonight, we lay out the facts, the mysterious clues and the trial's stunning turns, in this CNN Primetime Special.
COATES: Good evening, everyone. I'm Laura Coates, in closing arguments, today, in the Alex Murdaugh double murder trial. And they will resume, tomorrow, and come after five weeks of tense, emotional and graphic moments, as a jury of 12, in Walterboro, South Carolina, will soon decide Alex Murdaugh's fate.
Now, for the very first time, today, they visited the scene, of the murders, of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh, traveling to the family's hunting property and, for the first time, we also got to look at the crime scene, up close, via video, released today.
Now, here's how tonight is going to work. We have assembled some of the nation's most prominent trial and jury veterans, to analyze the key pieces of evidence, and which side may have presented the very best arguments.
On the defense table: Mark O'Mara, who defended George Zimmerman; Jennifer Bonjean, who defended Bill Cosby and R. Kelly.
On the prosecution table: Loni Coombs, a former Los Angeles criminal prosecutor; and Anna-Sigga Nicolazzi, a veteran former homicide prosecutor, in Brooklyn.
Now, in our makeshift jury box, the neutral voices, at least for tonight: Richard Gabriel, a jury consultant in many high-profile cases, including the O.J. Simpson, and Casey Anthony trials; Judge Glenda Hatchett, who was the first African American Chief Judge, of a State court, in Georgia; and Ken Turkel, who represented everyone, from Hulk Hogan, to Sarah Palin.
Now, before we begin, look, if you have not been following this trial, we're going to give you the quick overview, of just how we get here. So, let's go live to Randi Kaye, who has been following every twist and turn.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Laura, this all started nearly two years ago, with that double murder, not far off property (ph) known as Moselle. And ever since then, it has turned into a twisted tale of greed, lies and more lies. And the State says, there is only one man, orchestrating all of it, and that is Alex Murdaugh.
MURDAUGH: I need the police and ambulance immediately. My wife and child have been shot badly.
KAYE (voice-over): June 7th, 2021, Alex Murdaugh says he called 911, after finding his wife, and youngest son, dead, at their hunting property, known as Moselle.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you touch Maggie at all?
MURDAUGH: I did. I touched them both.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
MURDAUGH: I tried to - I mean, I tried to do it as limited as possible but I tried to take their pulse on both of them.
KAYE (voice-over): 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh had been shot four or five times, with a .300 Blackout rifle. Paul Murdaugh, just 22, had been shot twice with a shotgun.
KENNETH KINSEY, ORANGEBURG COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE CRIME SCENE UNIT: She fell to the ground, and that's when the first fatal wound was delivered.
DICK HARPOOTLIAN, ALEX MURDAUGH DEFENSE ATTORNEY: His brain exploded out of his head, hit the ceiling, in the shed, and dropped to his feet. Horrendous, horrible, butchering.
KAYE (voice-over): Both were murdered, near the dog kennels, on the family's property, not far from the main house, where Alex Murdaugh said, he'd been napping, at the time.
That was a lie.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that you, on the kennel video, at 8:44 PM, on June 7th, the night Maddie - Maggie and Paul were murdered?
MURDAUGH: It is.
KAYE (voice-over): Murdaugh was backed into a corner. Investigators had found this video, on Paul Murdaugh's cell phone, after his death. It was recorded at 8:44 PM, just a few minutes, before prosecutors say the murders occurred.
Alex Murdaugh can be heard talking in the background.
MURDAUGH: I was nowhere near Paul and Maggie when they got shot.
KAYE (voice-over): Despite his denials, prosecutors say Murdaugh killed them, to distract from his alleged financial schemes that were coming to light. He had been confronted about missing funds, at his law firm, and his personal finances were about to be exposed, at an upcoming court hearing.
MURDAUGH: There were plenty of times where I took money that I shouldn't have taken.
KAYE (voice-over): Murdaugh's defense team has pushed back on the alleged motive. And this defense witness told the jury, after analyzing the bullets' trajectory, he determined someone much shorter than Alex Murdaugh, who was about six-five, likely was responsible for killing his wife.
MIKE SUTTON, FORENSIC ENGINEER: It puts the shooter, or whoever fired the weapon, if they were that tall, it puts men in an unrealistic shooting position.
COATES: Well, now you're up to speed. So, let's slow down for a second, because I want to go right to the evidence.
It comes down to two things that every single prosecutor has to contend with. I'm talking motive, and opportunity. And without direct evidence, or eye witnesses, or even the weapons themselves, the prosecution is going to have to prove the latter. Opportunity, better known as time.
So let's focus first on the timeline, the prosecution is laid out. And the big question, did Murdaugh have time, to commit murder, get rid of the guns, clean himself up, leave and return, in about an hour and 17 minutes? Or is there a reasonable doubt?
Let's drill down, on that key kennel video that Randi just mentioned. I want to turn to the prosecution first. Because, listen, he's admitting now that he is at the scene of the crime, moments before the murders. Is that enough?
ANNA-SIGGA NICOLAZZI, FORMER NYC HOMICIDE PROSECUTOR, HOST, "ANATOMY OF MURDER" PODCAST, HOST, INVESTIGATION DISCOVERY'S "TRUE CONVICTION": With everything else? Yes. It is that cell phone that is the cornerstone of the prosecution's case.
Paul gave investigators and the prosecution the exact tools they needed to figure out who it was that killed Maggie, and Paul. And it was his father, his wife, and he can't get away from it, when you put all the other pieces together.
COATES: But he can't get away in the sense of this, I'm playing devil's advocate, which I have you here as well, for the position. Look, it shows in the kennel, right? I don't see direct evidence of the murder yet. What do you think?
MARK O'MARA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, there's no direct evidence of the murder whatsoever.
This case is, as we all know, a substantial evidence case. And what that means is the prosecution, to get their conviction, has got to do away with, to exclude every reasonable hypothesis of innocence, not that the motions came down, but that there's someone else, who may have done it.
And quite honestly, without that type of direct evidence, I think it is a very questionable case that 12 people are going to say, without question, "We have no doubt that he did it."
COATES: But Loni, he did (ph) have kind of a disservice here, right, which is your point too? Why did he lie? I mean, he could have said it any time, any time, over the last almost two years, "Yes. I was at the kettles."
Now, when it comes in witness after witness after witness, suddenly he's "Yes, I was there."
LONI COOMBS, FORMER LOS ANGELES COUNTY PROSECUTOR, CRIMINAL TRIAL LAWYER: Absolutely. I think this kennel video is the most important piece of evidence, in this case, for the prosecution, because it explodes the big lie.
I'm not talking about the hundreds of lies he told in the past. I'm talking about the big lie, of his alibi, where he said, "I was not there at the crime scene. I was at the house taking a nap." He told this, from the first moment he called 911, to the first responder, to the first interview with law enforcement that night, to two more interviews with law enforcement, to all of his family members, to friends, everyone he has told that lie to, until, as you said, this video came up.
And, in court, witness after witness came in and said, "That's him on that video. That's him." So, that explains. It blows that up. And now he has to explain it. Why did he tell about lie?
If his family has just been murdered, and he wants to help law enforcement find the real killer? He knows that telling them the last time he saw them is a critical piece of evidence. He lied. Why? Because he knows when the time of death is, because he was there. That's why he went to so much lengths--
JENNIFER BONJEAN, R. KELLY'S CIVIL & CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY, BILL COSBY'S CIVIL & CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: No, no, no.
COOMBS: --so much lengths to make an alibi--
BONJEAN: The lie--
COOMBS: --to say he was not there at that time.
BONJEAN: The lie is the crown jewel of the prosecution. However, it does not provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt because people lie, in circumstances, like this, all the time.
I've represented plenty of people, factually innocent, who have told dumb lies, because in the moment, the stress the "How does this look? Do I look like I might be guilty? I know I'm not guilty," and you tell this instinctive lie. And then it is true, it creates a problem, because there are so many lies that have to flow from it.
But I think the video also raises some interesting questions, like what happened in those few minutes? We have this seemingly normal video, this kennel video. There doesn't seem to be anyone in distress. There doesn't seem to be yelling. There doesn't seem to be anything unusual. And then all of a sudden, this horrendous crime happens. What happened?
And as much as the prosecution wants to say this is a mastermind? This was not a very well thought-out crime, if in fact, you are saying that he calculated this, this, was some big scheme, to deflect from all of these financial crimes.
So, I think the defense can use the video, to their advantage, although I agree, it started out as a big problem.
COATES: What do you think?
NICOLAZZI: Laura, to go to Mark's earlier point, this is not a direct evidence case, this is circumstantial evidence case, I think there's so much stronger, because, at the end, the puzzle has to show one face, and one face alone. And here, it is Alex Murdaugh.
Yes, people lie for innocent reasons, that does not prove beyond a reasonable - guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. But when you couple it with all the small pieces of evidence, all the different things that happened, all the lies? This is a tsunami about to hit this man, to rip apart this legacy that his family that has been the meaning of their being, in that area, for years. And you look at the fact, you have motive, means, opportunity, and every small piece, large piece, in this case, those lies, coupled together, with the other pieces, I think, if the jury sees what the prosecution has been putting together, can overcome that extremely high burden, as it should be proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
O'MARA: It is an enormous stretch, to say "I will steal from people. But now to cover up that I stole from people, on my opiate habit, whatever, I'm going to kill my son, and I'm going to kill my wife." That is such a stretch.
If the State's case was so strong, circumstantial, as it is, why the big focus, on the finances? Why the big focus on the fraud? Why try and convict him for that which is not being prosecuted for, in front of this jury? It's because they don't have a strong case, on the actual murders.
COATES: I want to hear--
COATES: --I want to hear your point. But I also want to hear from, and see how this is landing. This has been a really big question, for so many, not only the idea of motive, opportunity.
COATES: But the idea of that big lie, let's hear from our fact- finders. And of course, you are not here to decide guilt or innocence. You're not the actual jurors, in this case. But I want to lean on your neutrality, nonetheless.
Tell me, who do you think has the stronger argument? Is it a justifiable lie? Or is it he lied, therefore he killed?
JUDGE GLENDA HATCHETT, HOST, "THE VERDICT," FORMER CHIEF JUVENILE COURT JUDGE IN FULTON COUNTY, GA, PERSONAL INJURY & POLICE MISCONDUCT ATTORNEY: Can I just say two things? Because we are all lawyers. And I just want to make sure that we remember that the people who are viewing this typically are not.
And so, I want to do two things quickly. One is the point about reasonable doubt. It doesn't mean that you have to prove beyond any doubt. It means that you have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. And secondly, the prosecution, under the law, is not required to outline and prove a motive. So, I just want to frame that, as we're talking about that.
Having said that, I think the fact that he waited until there was testimony, in this courtroom, from multiple people, and then said, "Oh, yes, I was there. And I was paranoid," really, I think, creates a credibility gap. And once you have that credibility gap, I think that it also can taint your other testimony, whether you're credible or not. And so, think about that, as we're having this conversation.
COATES: How has it played (ph) the jury to you? RICHARD GABRIEL, TRIAL CONSULTANT/JURY CONSULTANT, AUTHOR, "ACQUITTAL": Well, I think you've hit on an important point here. The truth is that juries make decisions in a different way than what lawyers and judges do.
They have an interesting way of saying "It's not really about the evidence." For them, really, it's about the story. What are they putting together? And they may think, "OK, he's got the means he's got the opportunity." It's really the why. It's what the - how they construct what is going through his head.
And a lot of times is, I think all the attorneys here know that trial sometimes are about rational explanations, for irrational behavior. And so, they're trying to figure out, how can we create an explanation of this?
Jurors can construct their own, either reasonable doubt, because the real issue for a jury is what do they want to believe? And that is really, do they want to believe he's guilty? They - and that's - that actually happens much earlier in the case. It's sometimes happens as early as jury selection, where they go look at this guy, and go, "I know about the Murdaughs."
GABRIEL: "And I don't like them."
COATES: Which, by the way, I'm going to get you a second, Ken. But I want to put on one more piece of evidence, because you talked about the idea of constructing, constructing alibis, what do we want to believe, do I know them?
And mind you, this is a team that did not move for a change of venue. They want this jury, in front of the people, who might say, "I know Murdaugh."
But Ken, let me point this out to you guys, because I want to point out the idea of what's been happening, in terms of what the prosecution is saying, about the movements, right? We know he was at the scene of the crime, because he said it, he admitted to it. The question is, what was he doing, in between the time that he was at the kennel, and then called the police? Listen to this.
KAYE (voice-over): Cell phone data, filling the gaps, in a case, with dramatically little physical evidence. State investigators pieced together a detailed timeline of events, using cellular and GPS data.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are 4,820 data points that make up these lines here.
KAYE (voice-over): Prosecutors pointed out Alex Murdaugh was more active, at the time of the murders, than at any point that night. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 283 steps.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was a busy guy right then, wasn't he?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It appears.
KAYE (voice-over): And tried to indicate Murdaugh disposed of his wife's phone. Using data to show he drove by slowly, where it was later found.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After passing that location, as the defendant's vehicle start to accelerate?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It does.
KAYE (voice-over): The defense use the same data to show Alex and Maggie's phones were never together that night, and that her phone didn't appear to be motion-activated, at the time the State suggested Alex Murdaugh tossed it out of his moving car.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the times that Alex Murdaugh's car was passing, the screen never came on?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's correct. Database indicated it was off.
COATES: Now, they talked about 4,000 data points.
How about nine, for a second, every one, right? The idea of the points in time, they're following the Murdaugh's phone records, and what it really means.
When you distill it, Ken, and think about just the volume of information that a jury, as Judge Hatchett points out, they're not used to doing this all day long. They don't live, eat and breathe the case.
How is it playing to have so many different points, and it coming down to the cell phone timeline?
KEN TURKEL, ATTORNEY, ATTORNEY FOR HULK HOGAN AND SARAH PALIN: It's terribly difficult, for me, to be a neutral. I'm hearing so many things here that I like. And when you piece them all together, I don't think jurors sit there, and concentrate, on 283 steps. I think they concentrate on a story.
And that story's got to be authentic, and when I get to write a book, one day, when I stop doing this, and I want to give the secrets away. Authentic needs the facts, with the bad ones and the good ones, being able to own those, and tell a story that's going to make sense to people, in a way that you can win your case. And if you can't win that case, you shouldn't try that case, OK? That's my theory.
And when I hear an authentic story, I don't think of the gridlines, and 283 steps. They'll get lost on that. There's a million ways. I don't know - these phones and how they track your steps, who even knows? I don't think that's where this breaks down. I don't think they put them on the stand, until that tape comes up, and they know he's there. And now he's got to explain this away.
And I focused in because I will tell you this, when I first started looking at this, and what they don't know out there, in TV lens, we don't coordinate these thoughts, right? We've all looked at this independently.
TURKEL: And when I first looked at it, the motive jumped out at me, because there's no authenticity. This story does not make sense that a guy is going to murder his wife, and his son, to distract from a financial crimes investigation? I mean, this guy's a lawyer. He'd take the hit on the financial crimes. It's a much more defensible scenario, in a white-collar case than it isn't this.
COATES: Listen, I'm hearing all this murmuring, as you're talking about it. I want to go to the tables here, because I'm hearing you talk abbot this. And I got this--
TURKEL: I haven't gotten to the point yet.
COATES: Well I'm going to get back to your point.
TURKEL: The real point.
COATES: Let me tell you something, as the prosecution team in the defense, talk to me about this, because what's jumping out to this jury is the motive issue, what's jumping out is the financial fraud trial that was in the middle of all of this. And the idea of the minutia, the devil being in the details, but is the devil in the details helpful to this case?
NICOLAZZI: And I think it is, because this is someone all the experts have told us that is a true narcissist that puts his interest above everyone's. That includes his son, his wife. And he has shown that. I mean, look who he was stealing from? His housekeepers' family, people that had almost nothing, he was willing to take it all away from them, for his own personal gain.
And what Ken's saying about the steps? I absolutely agree. However, look at that. I wish I could do 283 steps every few minutes of my day! We'd all be in a lot better shape!
This is a man who says that he had taken a nap, and that was just going to see his ailing mother. Well, that's not 283 steps. 283 steps becomes part of the cohesive story, which is that this is someone, who has thought this out, who has decided in his warped mind that this is the way to hope to get out from under. And so, he is putting his plan in action.
And I agree with Jennifer, it's not a great plan. But the most masterminds--
BONJEAN: It makes no sense.
NICOLAZZI: --usually break down somewhere, which is why people are convicted.
NICOLAZZI: And in the end of the day--
COATES: Hold on. I mean, I've always--
NICOLAZZI: --I think it becomes part of the story.
COATES: --I've always wanted to be called "Your honor." We're going to have to keep it down everyone for a moment here. I want to hear what he had to say about this issue. Because look, and it's hard not to get riled up, when you hear these arguments, what's going on. But she's saying this is all concocted alibi.
BONJEAN: The mode of evidence is so lousy. And it is true, the prosecution doesn't have to prove motive.
BONJEAN: But it is the one thing that juries really want to hear. They want to know why.
BONJEAN: And this motive makes no sense.
Let me get this straight. I have this house of cards, ready to tumble down, all these financial crimes. "Let me throw a double homicide on the heap," so, you know?
O'MARA: That will fix things.
BONJEAN: "That will fix everything?"
BONJEAN: It makes zero sense.
BONJEAN: And why two? You can kill one person, and have the same - and the same effect, if you really want to just distract. It does not make sense. I think it's the weakest point and yet still the most important point, notwithstanding, the prosecution doesn't have to prove it.
COATES: Loni? COOMBS: Well, I agree. And even as the trial unfolded, just from the opening statements, but he laid out that the motivation for murders, double murder of your wife and son was to distract? Nobody's going to buy that. You don't do such a horrific, violent murder.
And that's why the defense just got up and described, the brain going up and hitting the ground. And immediately you're like, "No, there's no way he's would have done that, for that reason."
However, as this case unfolded, I agree the prosecution spent way too much time on the financial crimes. I think their details were important, because they could talk about how he was so cold, and stealing from friends, who were dying, and just taking their money, and telling them "I'm sorry, you're doing so poorly."
But in the closing argument, he expanded the motive. He said, "It wasn't just the financial crimes." He said, "It was the family legacy."
And that's one thing that came out very clear, his legacy that goes back 100 years, in this low country, is the most important thing to him. His prominence, in the community, all of this was tied in with what was going on, on the financial side that was being covered up, and it was all going to be exposed, and it was going to tear down his family legacy. And that was part of the reason why that's more of the motive why.
But remember, the reason why we don't have to prove motive is because there's no rational motive for murder, OK? We're never going to understand, a person's motive for murder.
NICOLAZZI: We're also told that there was a rocky patch, in their marriage, right, if we can listen to accounts, and that both Paul and Maggie, were starting to give him a hard time, about the opioids. Addiction does a lot of bad things to people. Unfortunately, we have seen that. So it's like, it doesn't make sense to us, hopefully, because most of us don't go around murdering other people. But I think that it is, it goes towards his guilt, when you put it in the context of all the other pieces.
COATES: Well, look, if you're talking about how you dress up the idea of the context, and the motive, and we still don't have direct evidence, essentially? But we do actually have conversations and testimony around what he was wearing.
And I'm going to talk to you about why that has been part of it, teasing about discussions about the blue jacket, was it a tarp, was it not, the change of clothes, why was that significant?
We're going to hear from our jury box, and our prosecution, and defense teams, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think his hands are dirty. I just I'm not sure if he pulled the trigger. But I think his hands are dirty.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think he'll be proven guilty of the murders itself. I mean, of course, you know, the financial part. But as far as the murders itself, there's no - you know, without shadow of a doubt, I don't think he's going to be convicted of that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Once they see that this guy is capable of stealing from the most vulnerable people in society? If he can do that he can do anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: Well, it's anyone's guess at this point how the jury will actually come down when the closing arguments are over. But there's a lot more that the juries have - jurors have to weigh, including what was found on one, well, blue raincoat.
KAYE (voice-over): This blue rain jacket, one of the only pieces of physical evidence, gunshot residue discovered on it, held up time and time again, for the jury. It's very inclusion, the subject of intense back-and-forth.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did Alex Murdaugh have that rain jacket with him? She says, "No."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This appears to be the same thing you saw the defendant holding. It looks so yes.
KAYE (voice-over): The amount of residue found, noteworthy, 52 particles of gunshot primer residue, found on the jacket.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a significant amount of particles. Yes, sir.
KAYE (voice-over): But the residue's location may matter most. 38 of those particles were on the inside, and just 14 on the outside.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Typically, people wear their clothing right-side- out. And so, if they're in the vicinity, to the discharge of a shooting, that's where the particles are going to land.
KAYE (voice-over): The prosecution suggesting the jacket was used to wrap up and dispose of the murder weapons, and a forensic scientist testified that could explain it.
But like so much in this trial, location and timing raised the potential for doubt.
The jacket was found several months after the murders at Alex Murdaugh's mother's home. With hunting and shooting so integral to the family lifestyle, the residue could be from a day of shooting, years ago, the forensic scientist said.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If the shotgun was not cleaned, there is a potential for the transfer off of that shotgun, yes.
COATES: There's a potential, right?
Well back with our expert guests, right now.
And keep in mind everyone, while they're focusing on not only that blue rain jacket, there's also been conversations about what he had on the day of the murders.
What he had on earlier in the day? This is before the time the prosecution says that actually happened. He's seen in a different outfit, a blue polo shirt, the brown loafers. Then that's when he talks to the police officers, a change of clothing. And then, of course, found a week later, and information about that that blue jacket.
But I bet - I'm going to go to my jury right now. I bet when you're thinking about what he had on, and how this weighs in, I bet jurors are still thinking to themselves, "Yes, the clothing is one thing. But are you trying to dress up the motive?" What do you think?
GABRIEL: Well, I mean, I'll tell you this. Jurors spend about a quarter to a third of the time, just talking about their own personal experience.
GABRIEL: So, what ends up happening is they go, "Yes, when I go hunting, here's what I do. And here's how I see." So, they're going to be using, in the jury room, their personal experience, to talk about discharge of weapons, the spatial relationship, the dogs, the space and the timing, and how loud these gunshots might have been. So, they're going to be filtering all this, through their personal experience. And that's why jury selection, quite frankly, is really important.
COATES: And that's why you want a jury of your peers, right, who might say things like, "Well, that could be me, and would I do that, does that make sense, in the timeline?"
Judge you're nodding along?
HATCHETT: Right. And I also think it boils down to a person, actually wondering, I think, from the jurors' perspective, "Well why did he change clothes?" If he had on clothes, here, why did he have on different clothes, by the time the police got there? As a juror, I would be wondering, "Why did he change clothes?"
And how did this jacket end up a week later? Now, there's some plausible explanations as we just heard, and that raises reasonable doubt. [21:30:05]
But, as a juror, I'm thinking, "He's dressed this way. He says he has a nap. He does this. He does this. He does this."
And one other footnote, this technology has been very interesting in this case because the thing that he thought would exonerate him has been the thing that has really come back to haunt him. The steps -- nobody thought, you know, that they would go back and track the steps. Nobody thought that they would go back and really look at the phone, the overlay of the phone, and he certainly didn't think he was on that video with his son that night.
And so, the technology, interestingly enough, is going to weigh I think very heavily in this case.
COATES: Ken, the moment you have been pointing out when he's with the son in the kennel -- that's sticking in your craw. Why?
TURKEL: I think I mentioned earlier, I don't think they put him on if they don't have to explain that lie away.
HATCHETT: I agree.
TURKEL: And I don't think anybody picked up on this, but I am obsessed with this. That's why I constantly bug you to let me talk about this.
He gets on the stand and he starts saying, "I'm sorry," and he goes down a succession of everybody he knows -- I apologized to my family, to the other families, to his dad, just this litany, he names everyone in his life, and when he gets to the end.
He's supposed to be apologizing for the lie, for telling the lie about the kennel. It's in that part of his testimony, I think it was on cross, and then he says, I apologize to Mags and Pau-Pau, I would never intentionally do anything to hurt them. I wasn't thinking clearly that night. I was incapable of reason. So I'm sorry I told the lie about the kennel.
That testimony I watched about eight times today over and over. It makes no sense.
HATCHETT: I'd like to add one other thing too, that people, I don't think, zeroed in on when he asked if the dogs were barking, and he said, no, because nobody else was there. And if a stranger had been at that kennel that night, those dogs would have been going absolutely wild. He in his own testimony said, no, because there was no one else there.
COATES: You know what's funny about this, we're hearing all the things from the mind of the jurors, areas that we're talking about motive and everything else that's going on, but really, what was so impactful to the jury box and what even non-lawyers were thinking about? And let me tell you, we have the kennel video. We've got the jacket, the change of clothes. You've got the defendant's testimony. You know what we don't have still and we're going to talk about it
next? Where are the guns? Where are the weapons that were used to shoot these two victims? Next.
COATES: All right. Look, this is a double homicide trial. He's also charged with two counts of possessing a weapon. Interesting, of course, because we don't actually have the murder weapons as part of the evidence in this case.
Back with our experts right now.
I want to hear from you guys. What is the impact that they do not have any of the guns for the evidence? What do you say?
NICOLAZZI: I don't think it should be any, because in most homicides, they don't have the murder weapon. You know it happened and here, they have great evidence. They have the fact that the rifle, the casings that were found nearby, they said conclusively match, even though they don't have the gun. But they know that Paul had a gun like that, that was replaced the year before, that is, lo and behold, missing.
Then you now go to the shotgun and they talk about while they can't -- could not conclusively match anything, there are certain guns from that home that could have caused those exact injuries from what they recovered from Maggie -- again, missing. So for someone that likes to talk and explain things because his favorite line should be, I look at him is admit what you have to and deny what you can. He talks about things he's comfortable with, and then they confront him with something and he switches gears.
There's no answer for that so I think it is quite powerful for the prosecution what they had when they talked about the guns that were used were owned by this family and they're now missing.
COOMBS: Well, I think it's important, too. I know the defense is going to say these are not family guns, you can't prove it. You don't have them. However, the defense went to great lengths to talk about how Paul would leave his guns everywhere so that, apparently, the argument is this vigilante who showed up just moments before the death wasn't there when -- when Alex was down there because the dogs didn't alert.
But when they showed up, they just happened upon these guns, these family guns that Paul left at the truck and happened to use those. How lucky was it this person that was coming in to kill found these guns laying there and used them to kill.
MARK O'MARA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Oh, but again, the prosecution does a good job of explaining away evidence they don't have because they don't have it.
But the harsh reality is you should have found those guns. They could have found the guns. They worked this case for a year and a half to get ready for it. They have all of the resources they could have gotten. They've gotten everything from the cell phones, everything from the cars, everything else.
But yet what they don't have are two of the most significant pieces of evidence to convince jury that there are fingerprints, that there is anything that would suggest it was actually him.
And the fact that they don't have it leaves a gaping hole through which reasonable doubt is going to be found.
BONJEAN: And I think we have to ask, you know, again, the prosecution's theory is that this was a mastermind. He had this all crumbling down, and at the same time, he is committing the messiest crime really, all in -- having this hastily put together alibi, he's using his family guns. You know, this isn't someone, if he did it, who really has planned this out in any way.
So again, that doesn't fit with the prosecution's theory either. Why use your own guns? There's guns everywhere.
So I mean, I think the jury's going to have a lot of questions about why would he use his own family guns to carry out these crimes on which clearly could be more easily connected to him.
O'MARA: How about using a gun that the family does not have?
COOMBS: Access, access, because they're there.
COATES: This is a family that has a lot of guns.
O'MARA: If he's planned this thing out like a sociopathic would plan it out, wait a minute --
O'MARA: -- why not go get a gun that the family doesn't own? Why use guns that the family own?
COOMBS: He plans of getting rid of the guns. They're not going to ever --
COATES: You know what I heard?
O'MARA: No, you said AK-47 that they don't own. There you have an evidence.
COATES: I heard access. I heard opioids. I heard why, I heard questions. I hear room for a jury to contemplate all of this.
But, you know, up next, we're going to talk about an area that I think you mentioned, Loni, and that's the idea of maybe another witness in this particular trial, maybe the opioid addiction?
[21:40:05] Well, Murdaugh testified that he had a severe one. I want to know what role does that play in the prosecution's case and how about the defense's case.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEX MURDAUGH, MURDER DEFENDANT: I'm not quite sure how I let myself get where I got, but it came from -- you know, I battled that addiction for so many years, I was spending so much money on pills.
CREIGHTON WATERS, PROSECUTOR: So you're taking 60 a day or something like that? I mean --
MURDAUGH: There were days when I took more than that. There were days that I took less than that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: Alex Murdaugh laying bare his opioid addiction that spanned two decades, up to 60 pills.
What does that do to your body? What does it do to your mind?
CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is with us to break this all down.
Dr. Gupta, I'm so glad you're here because for so many people who were looking at this trial, and there are many looking at it, they're wondering what happened.
So, I want to start with that huge dosage in particular because the amount we're talking about that he says he was taking almost daily -- obviously, you don't know the specifics and the details have not been -- that you're not treating him specifically.
But just for any human being, what would be the physiological impact on that very high dosage?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it could be a pretty significant impact, but I can tell you this, that depending over what period of time, and you said over a couple of decades perhaps in his case, people can gradually build up increasing tolerance to these drugs, these opioids. This was not unheard of, even though, you know, you're talking maybe 2,000 milligrams a day. I think if you do the math on this, it's a lot.
Typically, a dose would start as 10, 20 milligrams maybe a few times a day, maybe even less than that if someone has taken these medications after an operation, for example. But over time people can increasingly escalate the dose. And you know, we talked to anesthesiologists today who have heard of patients taking even more than that.
A couple of things unusual. One is that, you know, over the last 20 years, Laura, the landscape has changed. You heard about people taking this many pills in the past when pills were being overprescribed. And they're still being prescribed too much, but they've also been replaced by things like heroin and fentanyl, for example. So that's where people often transition if they're taking that much opioids.
But, you know, even within a short time, people can start to develop significant tolerance to the point where they're no longer taking the medication to get high, to develop euphoria, but rather just to feel normal and not have withdrawal.
Let me just show you this real quick, Laura. The tolerance and the withdrawal that symptoms that people might have can happen very quickly, okay? So, even if you're taking this for a few days only, then if you stop taking it, within hours you could start to have withdrawal symptoms, 6 to 12 hours.
Within a few days, three days after you stop taking it, you could have all the symptoms you see in the middle of the screen. You feel terrible. You feel miserable. That's the acute withdrawal, and that's what sort of prompts people to start taking pills again.
Your question specifically about the impact physiologically, you name it in terms of what it can do to the body. People can feel very nauseated. They can feel very constipated. They can have brain fog. They may not have their faculties. They may exercise poor judgment, you name it, when someone's in the throes of, you know, significant opioid abuse.
It also turns off your body's natural opioids. So, as soon as you stop taking the opioids, you start to have pain. So, you're taking this thing for pain, you stop taking it, you actually have more pain than you did before. So lots going on there, Laura.
COATES: I hone in particularly because, of course, we're in the midst of a murder trial with Alex Murdaugh and the idea of the impact it could have on your brain pretty significant in what you're touching on.
And interestingly enough, when you talk about the tolerance, one, Dr. Gupta, does that mean that you could hide what is happening and the impact on your body if you've built up the tolerance? And two, could it be a circumstance where it could -- it could very well impact your judgment, impact your ability to perceive things in real time or heighten paranoia? Because that seems to be part of this defense.
GUPTA: Well, I think the answer to the first part of your question, could you hide it, and I think the answer is yes. If you basically are taking enough opioids to overcome the withdrawal that you could have, you know, again, within hours of stopping taking it, you could hide it. And at some point, you're taking it to achieve some sense of normalcy, as opposed to acting like you're in a euphoric state. That's the goal ultimately for people who are opioid addicts.
What is interesting when it comes to the brain, people think about opioids affecting pain centers in the brain, which they do. There's these mu receptors in the brain. This is a mu agonist. You don't need to remember that, but these mu receptors are all over the brain, not just in pain areas but also in emotional areas of the brain. They're also in areas of the brain that are responsible for reward.
That's the top screen there. That's where all the mu receptors are, but it overlaps with all these different areas of the brain. So someone who takes opioids gets a really significant response to all these different areas of the brain.
I'll just show you on this brain model, if you can see. I talked about the reward centers of the brain, the emotional centers of the brain, but to your question, it can also affect this area, the prefrontal and frontal cortex, and that area of the brain is responsible for judgment, and your ability to determine what is real, what is not real, maybe that has something to do with paranoia -- perhaps, I mean, it depends.
But over time, I think it is safe to say that the circuitry in your brain as a result of now being an opioid addict changes. You require higher and higher doses to achieve the same effect, but the receptors in all those areas of the brain that I just outlined, they change. And so, you know, what is the impact ultimately on how someone behaves, it's a little bit tough to know, but it could be different, obviously, than before they started taking the opioids.
COATES: Dr. Gupta, fascinating to hear your insight on this and your expertise. Thank you so much.
And next, the taboo topic from this trial that's not getting talked about enough.
COATES: So, of all of the trials to cover, why this one? Why this trial in Walterboro, South Carolina home of fewer than 6,000 people in this Lowcountry county seat of Colleton County.
Maybe it's what this man, Alex Murdaugh, seen sitting there in the courtroom, it's what maybe he represents. The wealthy scion is charged with double murder but no matter what the verdict in this case is, he's also been charged with 99 financial crimes and other state investigations swirl around them, almost a dozen lawsuits, according to "The Charleston Post and Courier".
Now, look at how long it took this to even get to trial.
They were killed June 7th, 2021, yet here we are nearly two years later -- long enough for multiple filmmakers to pump out multiple high-profile documentaries, including two by our own parent company.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where the Murdaughs go, death seems to follows.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was once a dynasty is literally reduced to rubble. Olympus has fallen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: Did privilege have anything to do with the delay or the investigation? I mean, we know that money and power and connections can equal protection. It seems Murdaugh had all three.
For more than 85 years, a member of the family served in the local prosecutor's office. Their name synonymous with the law. Their bank accounts were filled through a powerful personal injury law firm.
The Murdaugh story perhaps resonates in its familiarity. We do know there are two justice systems in this country. One for the rich and one for the poor.
As a former Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg suggested way back in 1964, far too often, money or the lack of it can be the deciding factor in the court room.
Murdaugh had a front row seat to the criminal justice system and knows who is likely to go to prison. It's possible he felt confident with the legal system that often gives people like him a pass.
But now that the spotlight is on the Murdaughs, it might be shining a light on more unanswered questions. A trail of suspicious deaths now under renewed scrutiny as some area residents wonder if the Murdaugh money and power bought the family the benefit of the doubt for a lot longer than the time since the double murder.
Like that 2015 death of a classmate of Alex Murdaugh's son who was found dead in the middle of a road and no one was arrested. After the Murdaugh killings, the state is looking back into that case but hasn't said why, nor named Murdaugh as a suspect.
And when the family housekeeper died less than three years later, insurance paid out big settlements but none of it went to her survivors. Instead, it lined Murdaugh's pockets.
Now, he later admitted in a settlement that he owes them $4.3 million. The state is also investigating her death.
And you combined that with a boat crash that killed a teenage girl, Mallory Beach, and that Paul was charged in that case before his death.
Alex Murdaugh is facing multiple lawsuits with that case as well, but his attorneys say he is not at fault for his son's alleged drinking and boating and say someone else was driving. Which brings me back to the double murder trial that we now see
playing out -- 12 jurors, two murders, one burden of proof, and one Alex Murdaugh.
Thank you for watching tonight. I'm Laura Coates.
Alisyn Camerota picks up coverage, next.