WALTERBORO, S.C. (WSAV) — As the defense gets ready to present its case the one person everyone wants to hear from is the man accused of murder himself, Alex Murdaugh.
A source close to the defense said Murdaugh is expected to take the stand in his own defense. While the trial and this case have changed every day, if Murdaugh does step up to talk, it could be a game-changer for the jury.
The last time we heard Murdaugh speak in a courtroom was in July 2022 when he was indicted for the killings of his wife and son.
“What say you Richard Alex Murdaugh are you guilty or not guilty to the charges for which you stand indicted,” lead prosecutor, Creighton Waters asked. “Not guilty,” Murdaugh said.
“How shall you be tried,” Waters asked. “By God and my country,” Murdaugh said.
During the trial, jurors heard and saw video recorded by Paul Murdaugh of Alex Murdaugh at his dog kennels, talking to investigators the night of the killings and in the days after.
The question is will Murdaugh testify in his own defense? A suspect taking the stand, especially in such a high-profile case is uncommon and could be risky. However, it’s been successfully done in the past.
Most recently, Kyle Rittenhouse took the stand in his murder trial in 2021. Rittenhouse was accused of shooting and killing two men during a Black Lives Matter protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rittenhouse claimed self-defense as he took the stand, getting emotional and at one point crying uncontrollably during his testimony.
“That’s when I run,” Rittenhouse testified while crying and was able to convince the jury he was a not-guilty.
Legal expert Joe McCulloch has been watching the Murdaugh trial closely. He says the defense won’t jump the gun and instead will make a decision on Murdaugh testifying at the last minute.
“I think everyday lawyers assess in a criminal trial, whether their client accused of a crime should testify and whether it’s necessary for them to and you never make that decision until the last second,” McCulloch said. “And it all depends on the predicate information and evidence.”
If Murdaugh takes the stand he’s expected to testify to details only he knows. He has to try to convince the jury that he is a loving father and family man who would never kill his family.
He tried as much during an interview with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) on June 8, 2021.
“Did you kill Maggie,” lead SLED Investigator David Owen asked. “No. Did I kill my wife? No, David,” Murdaugh said.
“Did you kill Paul,” Owen asked. “No sir, I did not kill Paul,” Murdaugh said.
While WSAV News 3 believes Murdaugh will testify, it won’t be known until he is actually called. That may not be until the last day of the defense case, as their last and potentially strongest witness to prove his own innocence.
The defense started their case last Friday and will pick back up on Tuesday morning at 9:30.