Alex Murdaugh juror reveals final moments deliberating verdict, how dog kennel video proved key to the case
A juror in the Alex Murdaugh murder case told Fox News Digital that faith got the jury panel through an extremely difficult trial and called the dog kennel video a "crucial piece of evidence" as they deliberated the case.
James, who asked that his last name be withheld, said the panel prayed together before entering the courtroom Thursday evening to deliver a verdict of guilty on all counts, sending Murdaugh to prison for the rest of his life.
"We prayed together. We prayed before we went in, we prayed before we came out to give the verdict," said James, who was known as juror No. 530 during the six-week Walterboro, South Carolina, trial. "That was a huge factor in us being able to sit comfortably with our decision."
A juror in the Alex Murdaugh trial is interviewed by Rebecca Rosenberg in Walterboro, SC, Friday, March 3, 2023. He is being identified only as "James." (Rebecca Rosenberg/Fox News Digital)
James' brother, a Colleton County deputy, responded to the murder scene and was a witness at the trial, but the defense didn't object to seating him.
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Deliberations to a swift verdict
It took the panel less than three hours to convict the disgraced scion of a once powerful legal dynasty of fatally shooting his 22-year-old son Paul and his wife, Maggie, 52.
James is 22, the same age as Paul when he was murdered near the dog kennels of the family's hunting estate in Islandton June 7, 2021.
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When the 12 jurors first got in the deliberation room, they took a vote, and it was nine for guilty, and three for not guilty, he said in an interview Friday.
FILE - Alex Murdaugh, right, sits in court with his legal team, including attorney Margaret Fox, during a judicial hearing in the Colleton County Courthouse in South Carolina on Aug. 29, 2022. (Tracy Glantz/The State/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
They calmly discussed the evidence going through everyone's questions then took another vote, which was unanimous.
"We were all pretty sure we knew what had happened, and we knew who had pulled the trigger," he told Fox News Digital, wearing a tie with a Constitution motif.
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He and 10 of the other jurors returned to the Colleton County Courthouse Friday and watched as Murdaugh, wearing a beige prison-issue jumpsuit and shackles, was handed a double life sentence.
The trial lasted six weeks, twice as long as predicted, and the jurors heard from 76 witnesses.
Dog kennel video was critical
James, a graduate of Clemson University who works in construction, said all the evidence in the case was important, but the dog kennel video was particularly "crucial."
Murdaugh repeatedly told investigators, family members and friends that he didn't go to the dog kennels the night of the murders.
But investigators retrieved a cellphone video from Paul's phone in April 2022 that he had recorded at 8:45 p.m., four minutes before prosecutors say he and his mom were shot to death.
The clip captured the voices of Maggie and Murdaugh in the background talking about their yellow lab Bubba catching a chicken in his mouth, shredding the family patriarch's alibi and forcing him to take the stand to address the lie.
"I think it's incredible timing on Paul’s part," James said. "I don't think that anyone would have ever known that he was down there if it wasn't for that video. I think that there's a lot of evidence that points towards Alex, but I feel like that does solidify it."
FILE - Alex Murdaugh and defense attorney Dick Harpootlian review evidence during his trial for murder at the Colleton County Courthouse on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023, in Walterboro, South Carolina. (Joshua Boucher/Pool/The State/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
James said that Paul, in a way, helped solve his own murder.
"It says a lot that somebody that couldn't speak, somebody that couldn't be a witness was able to be a witness even after they passed away," he said.
Visit to the murder scene bolstered prosecution's case
The jury's visit to the murder scene, known as Moselle, helped them flesh out the crime. Ironically, the excursion came at the request of the defense, but it may have bolstered the prosecution's case.
Based on the testimony from the experts, Murdaugh was standing near the doorway when he used a shotgun to fire the first, nonfatal shot to Paul's chest, who was in the middle of the feed room.
The second shot came from a dramatic upward angle grazing Paul's shoulder, entering his neck and blowing his brain out through the top of his skull.
On the visit, James observed a one-inch threshold at the base of the feed room door that helped explain the second shot's unusual trajectory.
"I think if [Murdaugh] is looking at Paul, and he's just shot a buckshot, which, if you're not firm, it can rock you pretty good, I think he could have been unbalanced. And I think he could have tripped over that threshold and that puts him on the ground shooting up," James said. "I think that makes sense to me for the angle of the shot."
FILE - A juror in the Alex Murdaugh trial is interviewed by Rebecca Rosenberg in Walterboro, SC, Friday, March 3, 2023. He is being identified only as "James." (Rebecca Rosenberg/Fox News Digital)
Murdaugh's testimony didn't decide the case
James said that that Murdaugh's grueling two days on the witness stand didn't decide the case.
"There was enough evidence there gathered by SLED (South Carolina Attorney General's Office) and produced by Paul," he noted.
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But Murdaugh's testimony did show the jurors how the disbarred attorney deceived people so persuasively and effortlessly by often combing the truth with a lie.
FILE - Mug shot of Richard Alexander Murdaugh. (South Carolina Dept. of Corrections)
James said that the prosecution's argument that there was a "perfect storm" gathering, and Murdaugh was on cusp of a devastating financial reckoning was a good theme – but wasn't a persuasive motive.
"I don't think I'd ever be able to answer why somebody would do something like that," he said. "But I know that there are people in the world that don't make sense, and they do things without making it make sense. So I don't know that there is an answer other than that it happened and that it shouldn't have."
FILE - Buster Murdaugh, the son of Alex Murdaugh, listens to prosecutor John Meadors give his closing arguments in Alex Murdaugh's trial for murder, at the Colleton County Courthouse on Thursday, March 2, 2023, in Walterboro, South Carolina. (Joshua Boucher/The State/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
He noted that prosecutors didn't have to prove motive – and it was the actual evidence that sealed Murdaugh's fate.
James added that he felt profound empathy for Murdaugh's only living son, Buster, 26, and the rest of his family, who were fixtures in courtroom.
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"I don't wish the position that they were in on anybody," he said. "I felt for them, and I had no idea how they were feeling, but I know that it was not easy for them."
Chris Eberhart contributed to this report.