Moment Alex Murdaugh defence attorney shouts at his friend of 25 years during rebuttal case

Prosecutors began calling more witnesses to the stand in Colleton County Courthouse on Tuesday morning, as part of its rebuttal case

Rachel Sharp
Thursday 02 March 2023 06:29 GMT
Moment Alex Murdaugh's lawyer shouts at witness over stolen money

Tensions erupted during Alex Murdaugh’s double murder trial on Tuesday morning when his defence attorney began shouting at his former friend of 25 years in the courtroom.

The disgraced legal dynasty heir’s attorney Dick Harpootlian lost his temper and grew increasingly fiery during his cross-examination of the state’s first rebuttal witness Ronnie Crosby.

Mr Crosby, Mr Murdaugh’s friend of 25 years and his law firm partner at PMPED, testified earlier in the trial about how the defendant lied to him about his alibi on the night that his wife Maggie and son Paul were murdered.

He had also testified about learning that his close friend and colleague had stolen millions of dollars from their law firm and its clients – and how the probe into the missing money was put on hold because of the murders.

During a heated cross-examination when Mr Crosby returned to the witness stand on Tuesday, Mr Harpootlian grilled him about how much of his personal money he has had to pay out to the victims of Mr Murdaugh’s fraud schemes.

Tensions reached boiling point when Mr Harpootlian went as far as to suggest that Mr Crosby was testifying against Mr Murdaugh because he is angry with him about the stolen money.

“If you’re implying that I would come in here and somehow shade truth in any way because of that, I would take high offence with that, Mr Harpootlian,” said Mr Crosby.

This prompted Mr Harpootlian to launch into shouting at the state’s witness and scoffing at the notion that he does not feel anger towards Mr Murdaugh.

“I’m not concerned about your high offence. Are you angry at him for stealing your money?” Mr Harpootlian shouted.

When Mr Crosby responded that he had “no feeling one way or another” to Mr Murdaugh anymore, Mr Harpootlian continued in a combative manner

“You don’t have any feeling about Alex Murdaugh betraying you and stealing your money?” he asked, before mockingly saying: “I admire you. I don’t know that I could look beyond that.”

He continued to grill Mr Crosby about being angry with his former friend – before goading him that he was becoming angry on the stand during the combative exchange.

Mr Crosby told the court that he used to be angry with Mr Murdaugh but has had to move on for the sake of his own life.

“I have had anger with him, extreme anger Mr Harpootlian, because of what he did to my law firm, my partners, my clients, his clients, our clients, what he did to his family, what he did to so many people,” he said, becoming more rattled.

The feed room and dog kennels where Maggie and Paul were killed

“Yes, I experienced a lot of anger, but you can’t walk around with anger. You have to find a way to deal with it and move forward, and I have done that.

“You’re dead wrong if you think I’ve come in here and told this jury something because of money when we’re talking about two people who were brutally murdered, then you’re headed in the wrong direction.”

Mr Harpootlian continued to try to illicit a stronger reaction – or an admission about a potential motive for his testimony – by goading him about being “zen” and “nirvanaed”, and claiming that “maybe I just saw some anger there”.

Mr Crosby pushed back, saying: “I came to the scene of these murders to support my partner. I was there. I saw things that haven’t even been talked about in this courtroom. I was there. I loved Paul very much. I thought I knew who Alex was. I did not.

“But it’s hard to walk around with anger... So you might not be that way, but I’ve got to function. I’ve got a family. I’ve got to move on with my life.”

He later added that he has not necessarily forgiven his former friend but has worked to move on with his life.

“When you go through what we’ve gone through – not only losing people we loved in a double homicide, seeing the aftermath and then learning that someone you worked with for more than 20 years had been stealing throughout a period of time and deceiving us – there’s a lot of emotion there,” he said.

“And yes, it was bad in the fall of 2021 and I have found a way to have no feelings. It’s not forgiveness. It’s just I don’t have any feelings.”

The brutal exchange culminated with Mr Harpootlain implying that Mr Crosby “might not want to help him in front of this jury” because of Mr Murdaugh’s financial crimes.

“All those things happened, and it does not influence my testimony. I take the oath that I just took very seriously, and if you’ve got any indication that anything I said was inaccurate, then I’ll be glad to address it with you,” Mr Crosby responded calmly.

“Well, the jury can judge that, thank you,” said Mr Harpootlian.

The heated exchange came after Mr Crosby disagreed with Mr Harpootlian that – having represented a lot of personal injury clients who have experienced trauma – trauma victims often get details about what happened wrong.

“They can. But I also find that people who have been involved in traumatic experiences try to be very accurate with details because they know it’s important to who is representing them,” he said.

During direct testimony, Mr Crosby had told the court how Mr Murdaugh stole thousands of dollars from his friend who was dying from terminal cancer.

It was around 2018 and Barrett Boulware – a friend of both Mr Crosby and Mr Murdaugh – was being treated for colon cancer at the Mayo Clinic.

Mr Crosby testified that he helped Mr Boulware out financially with the treatment, something Mr Murdaugh knew about.

Later, Mr Crosby said he learned that Mr Murdaugh had stolen $75,000 in insurance money from their dying friend.

Mr Crosby was the prosecution’s first rebuttal witness called to the stand – with his testimony marking the third time he has testified in Mr Murdaugh’s murder trial.

Defence attorney Jim Griffin and prosecutor Creighton Waters listen to testimony during Alex Murdaugh’s double murder trial

Earlier in the trial, he had sobbed as he told the court how he was very close to the Murdaugh family and Paul would call him “uncle”.

He testified how he rushed to Moselle as soon as he learned about the murders and stayed with Mr Murdaugh that night.

During that time, he said Mr Murdaugh repeatedly lied to him saying he had never gone down to the kennels that night and giving him the same alibi story that he gave to law enforcement – that he was napping at the family home, woke up and drove to his parents’ home to visit his sick mother.

Mr Crosby was one of multiple witnesses who identified Mr Murdaugh’s voice in Paul’s cellphone video at the kennels minutes before the murders.

Last week, Mr Murdaugh took the witness stand in his own case and confessed to lying about his alibi on the night of the murders and admitted that it was his voice in the video.

In court on Tuesday, Mr Crosby said that – hearing his former friend’s testimony – marked the first time he had heard him confess to beign there.

He also testified how, on the night of the murders, Mr Murdaugh told him on “more than one occasion” that he had touched Maggie and Paul’s bodies.

He said that it was “clear” to him that the accused killer said he touched the bodies prior to calling 911.

“My understanding was that he checked them before calling 911. That was clear to me,” he said.

During his testimony last week, Mr Murdaugh claimed he touched the bodies while on the phone to 911 – testimony that came after data revealed that less than 20 seconds passed between the moment Mr Murdaugh’s car pulled up at the crime scene and the start of his 911 call where he claimed he found Maggie and Paul’s bodies.

During the 911 call he told the dispatcher he had touched both his wife and son’s bodies to check for signs of life.

Prosecutors began calling more witnesses to the stand in Colleton County Courthouse on Tuesday morning, as part of its rebuttal case.

Lead prosecutor Creighton Waters told the court the state plans to call up to seven witnesses and expects to wrap up its case by the end of the day.

Alex Murdaugh wipes his eyes as the court is shown grisly photos of his wife and son’s bodies

Jurors will be taken on a field trip to the Moselle property to see the crime scene where the brutal murders took place for themselves.

At the property, jurors will tour the dog kennels and feed room on the estate where Maggie and Paul were shot dead back on 7 June 2021.

After that, closing arguments will get under way before the jury begins deliberations in the case.

It is possible that, by the end of the week, the disgraced attorney and accused killer will know his fate.

The defence rested its case on Monday after calling 14 witnesses over the course of one week as the legal team seeks to try to convince jurors of Mr Murdaugh’s innocence.

Mr Murdaugh’s younger brother John Marvin Murdaugh was the final witness called to the stand for the defence, breaking down in tears as he described how he “cleaned up” the crime scene – and “what was left” of his nephew Paul.

In emotional testimony, John Marvin said he had gone down to the dog kennels on the family’s sprawling Moselle estate on 8 June 2021 – the morning after the murders – and saw that law enforcement had not cleaned up Paul’s blood, brains and skull matter before handing the site back to the family mere hours after the murders.

“It had not been cleaned up. I saw blood, I saw brains, I saw pieces of skull... I don’t know what I was seeing,” he said.

Sobbing, he said he set to work cleaning up “what was left of Paul” while he cried “uncontrollably”.

“I promise you no mother, father, aunt or uncle should ever have to see and do what I did that day. I’m not blaming anybody. But I was just so overwhelmed,” he said.

John Marvin also gave testimony critical of the investigation including what he described as a “baffling” statement released by law enforcement saying the community was in no danger and an apparent lack of urgency to locate Maggie’s cellphone.

He also said a SLED agent told him that they knew his brother was responsible for the murders because of blood spatter evidence found on the white t-shirt he was wearing the night of the murders. This later turned out to be false, with forensic tests finding no human blood on the shirt.

He also claimed that his brother had a “great relationship” with bith his wife and son, as the defence seeks to paint Mr Murdaugh as a loving father and husband who could never have killed his family members.

The defence’s case has also sought to pick holes in the prosecution’s case and cast doubts on the validity of the investigation, while pushing a theory that two shooters may have carried out the attack.

In a dramatic two days in court last week, Mr Murdaugh took the witness stand in his own case and confessed to lying about his alibi on the night of the murders.

Alex Murdaugh’s brother breaks down describing how he ‘cleaned up’ scene of nephew’s murder

For the past 20 months, the 54-year-old has denied ever being at the dog kennels with his wife and son on the night of 7 June 2021, lying to law enforcement, his family and friends about the last time he ever saw them alive.

In a bombshell moment, he admitted to lying saying he was “paranoid” in part because of a distrust of SLED and because he was encouraged by his lawyer friends not to speak without an attorney present.

But, during a dramatic cross-examination, prosecutor Creighton Waters appeared to catch Mr Murdaugh in another lie.

He revealed evidence that Mr Murdaugh had lied about his alibi from the moment that the first officer arrived on the scene, appearing to pour cold water on the reason the accused killer gave for lying.

The defence case came after jurors heard four weeks of dramatic testimony from the prosecution, covering a trove of circumstantial evidence, including cellphone and car data and numerous apparent holes in his alibi for the time for the murders.

Prosecutors claim Mr Murdaugh killed his wife and son to distract from his string of alleged financial crimes – at a time when his multi-million-dollar fraud scheme was on the brink of being exposed.

Mr Murdaugh is facing life in prison for the murders of Maggie and Paul and has pleaded not guilty.

Beyond the murders, the brutal double murders brought to light a series of scandals surrounding Mr Murdaugh including unexplained deaths, a multi-million-dollar fraud scheme and a botched hitman plot.

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