Alex Murdaugh’s defense lawyer, Dick Harpootlian, playfully aimed a rifle at the prosecution table and said “tempting” during a demonstration Tuesday in Walterboro, South Carolina.
Forensic engineer Mike Sutton, a defense expert, was on the stand explaining the trajectory of the shots that killed Maggie Murdaugh June 7, 2021.
With Sutton’s guidance, Harpootlian was trying to show Colleton County jurors the shooter’s stance when the .300 Blackout rifle was fired, but briefly pointed the weapon at prosecutors.
“Tempting,” said Harpootlian mischievously before chuckling.
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The stunt prompted South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, who was seated at the prosecution table, to break into a broad smile, as the gallery erupted in laughter.
Harpootlian, who is also a Democratic state senator, quickly composed himself after the flash of levity.
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“I don’t know how I can do this, so I’m not pointing at somebody,” he said, before turning his back to the gallery and continuing with the demonstration in the opposite direction.
Sutton, a ballistics and acoustics expert, tested that based on the angle of the shot the shooter was likely 5 feet 2 to 5 feet 4 inches tall or crouched down in an awkward position.
Harpootlian asked Sutton to position him with the rifle in the way Murdaugh, who was 6 foot 4, would have to hold it in order to achieve the same angle.
“In my opinion, it is very unlikely that [Murdaugh] fired that shot,” Sutton tested. “It puts him in an unrealistic shooting position. It’s not an aiming position. It’s not a shooting position.”
Murdaugh is accused of fatally shooting his wife, Maggie, 52, with a rifle and Paul Murdaugh, 22, with a shotgun.
Sutton also conducted a series of tests recreating the shootings at the family’s sprawling 1,700-acre hunting estate known as Moselle.
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Maggie and Paul were found near the property’s dog kennels, about 380 yards as the crow flies from the main residence, where Murdaugh was allegedly napping during the slayings.
Sutton could barely hear the rifle when it was fired by the dog kennels while he was at the main house, and the defense played an audio recording of this experiment.
“If you’ve got the TV on, no way you could hear that shot,” Sutton tested.
The shotgun, which is quieter, wasn’t audible at all, he added.
In earlier testimony Tuesday, Murdaugh’s only living son, Buster Murdaugh, was tested for the defense.
He said his father was “destroyed, heartbroken” after the double slaying.
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