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Alex Murdaugh's defense team files motions to exclude expert testimony on forensic evidence from the crime scene

Defense attorneys want to limit testimony and expert opinion regarding blood spatter, firearms identification evidence as Alex Murdaugh case begins
Credit: jboucher@thestate.com/Pool
Alex Murdaugh (with glasses) consults with one of his attorneys on January 23, 2023.

WALTERBORO, S.C. — Alex Murdaugh's defense team has filed motions to limit or preclude introduction of testimony and expert opinions on blood spatter and firearms identification evidence in his double murder trial.

The filings came even as jury selection began on Monday, Jan. 23, in Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina

One motion requests the court to exclude expert testimony regarding blood spatter evidence given by Tom Bevel, a retired commander with the Oklahoma City Police Department who now is the president of a forensic education and consulting company. Bevel is set to testify that, in his expert opinion, blood spatter on Alex Murdaugh's t-shirt taken in evidence by agents from South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) on the night of the the murders show Murdaugh was in close proximity of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh at the moment they were shot. 

More Coverage: Here's What Happened On Day One of Jury Selection 

Defense argues "Bevel's methodology in reaching his conclusions, and the substance of those conclusions are not reliable. Moreover, Bevel's blood spatter opinion testimony directly contradicts the State's scientific forensic serology and DNA testing which failed to detect human blood anywhere on Murdaugh's shirt and failed to detect Paul's DNA."

Building on the first motion, a second motion filed seeks to exclude blood spatter testimony of Orangeburg County Deputy Chief Kenneth Kinsey, a former SLED agent and a qualified forensics expert. It is the defense's stance that Kinsey bases his testimony on Bevel's conclusions, which Murdaugh's team are calling into question.

The third motion filed seeks to limit or preclude firearm ballistic opinion testimony by forensic expert Paul Greer. The defense team calls into question Greer's methodology in reaching his conclusions.

In laying out the motions for limiting or precluding the testimony, Murdaugh's attorneys gave a more detailed description of the crime scene on the night of June 7, 2021, when Alex Murdaugh's wife Maggie and youngest son Paul were found murdered.

According to the facts of the case, recorded in the motion to preclude expert opinion testimony on firearm ballistics, law enforcement gathered the following evidence at the Moselle Road property the night of the murders:

  • Around Paul Murdaugh's body was found one shot cup and one shot wad, two 12-gauge shotshells, bullet jacket fragments, a fired bullet, buckshot pellet and birdhshot pellets
  • Around Maggie Murdaugh's body was found six .300 Blackout caliber cartridges and one bullet
  • From the ground at the side entrance to the house on the Moselle property -- approximately 300 yards from the crime scene -- additional fired .300 cartridge cases 
  • From a pond near a field used for target practice on the Moselle property were more .300 cartridge cases and 12-gauge shotgun shells

Law enforcement also confiscated four 12-gauge shotguns and one 300 Blackout caliber rifle from the property that were handed over to SLED for forensic examination.

SLED investigators collected the clothing Alex Murdaugh was wearing the night of the murders, when he said he discovered Paul and Maggie's bodies, for testing for blood spatter and DNA trace evidence. 

Bevel's interpretation of the physical evidence and crime scene analysis lead him to conclude the following:

He determined Paul was shot twice once in the chest and another time in the shoulder. 

Bevel determines "the first shot places the shooter in the doorway with the shotgun extended sufficiently past the door threshold. The long axis of the shotgun must be in line with the shot to the chest and exiting pellets creating the defects to the seven (7) windowpanes. 

"The second shot places the shooter outside the doorway toward the west edge of the doorframe. The shotgun must be angled from the hip area upward to get a corresponding trajectory and directional blood spatter on the door and ceiling."

Maggie had five gunshot wounds. According to Bevel, the pattern of the wounds and the cartridge cases collected at the scene indicate Maggie and the shooter were moving during the shooting incident. Bevel concludes three of Maggie's gunshot wounds came from at least four feet away. The two other shots were closer as there is some stippling around the entry wounds. 

The first shot hit Maggie in her chest and head. Another hit the back of her head right side of the upper back.

The motions are expected to be heard before the actual trial begins.

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