Alex Murdaugh tiral: Why did jury visit the murder scene?

Columbia, South Carolina –

A jury in Alex Murdau’s murder trial was able to see with his own eyes the rural hunting grounds where his wife and son were murdered.

Crime scene visits by juries are relatively rare, but have occurred in many high-profile prosecutions, such as the 1995 OJ Simpson murder trial and the trial of last year’s Florida school shooter Nicholas Cruz. doing.

A disgraced South Carolina attorney, Murdow, was found guilty of murder Thursday for shooting his wife and son in a kennel near his home on June 7, 2021. His career and finances were collapsing. Murdow denies his involvement in the shooting.

Here we look at the practice of having jurors look at crime scenes and other notable cases.

What happens when a jury visits a crime scene?

In a criminal trial, both the defense and the prosecution can request a jury visit of the crime scene, and it is usually the judge who decides whether to approve it. In many cases, the trial takes place years later, so the scene has changed because the case never happened, and taking the jurors there could give them the wrong impression of what happened. .

But in some cases, crime scene visits can help give jurors a sense of distance and other physical traits not found in photographs or other evidence presented in court, Virginia said. Richmond’s attorney, Stephen Benjamin, said: I was not involved in the Murdo case.

Benjamin, former president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said, “This makes a two-dimensional presentation in court understandable in three dimensions.

When jurors are taken to the scene of a crime, jurors are usually advised not to share their thoughts with each other, as deliberations do not begin until both sides have presented evidence. But the judge has instructed the jury not to say anything or point it out, Benjamin said.

“What it isn’t is the reenactment of the scene,” said Benjamin.

Why did Mardau’s team want the jury to go there?

The distance between the kennel where the body was found and the house where Murdow said he was napping was a key factor in the trial.

It took just 16 minutes from the time the victim stopped using his cell phone to the time Murdo left his home, about 1,100 feet (335 meters) from the scene of the crime. Defense attorney Dick Harputrian said the jury would need to look at the sprawling 1,700-acre (690-hectare) property to “evaluate spatial issues.”

Prosecutors opposed the visit because the scene had changed so much in the 20 months since the killing. The tree planted between Murdoh’s house and the kennel grew taller and thicker in between. , Murdo would have been able to see the lights in the kennel.

Bill Nettles, a criminal defense attorney and former US attorney in South Carolina who was not involved in the case, said the visit would help jurors be more informed about timelines and other questions. He said it would give him a “sense of scale” to make better decisions. Murdow may have heard gunshots on the premises that occurred during the trial.

“The jury will see it and see how both sides can benefit,” Nettles said. ”

What other cases have jurors visited crime scenes?

The most notable recent example was the sentencing of Cruz, who pleaded guilty to murdering 14 students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

The visit in that case was requested by prosecutors who said the jury needed to see the scene to understand what happened. He vehemently opposed it, arguing that it would provoke their emotions and that photos and videos would suffice.

Before a jury visited last year and followed steps Cruz took on February 14, 2018, the building was cordoned off and left largely pristine except for the victim’s remains and some personal items removed. It was left. Shattered walls and shards of glass from windows. A large puddle of dried blood was still staining the classroom floor.

Nearly 30 years ago, a jury in the Simpson trial toured the scene where prosecutors alleged he murdered ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. We saw where the bloodied bodies of Simpson and Goldman were found in the walkway leading to the Brentwood condominium.

Prosecutor Marcia Clarke said at the time that if jurors were shown a narrow passageway, they would be able to see “why one person was able to accomplish this and how the victim was cornered.”

Simpson was acquitted of the murders, but was later found responsible for the deaths in a civil suit.

In 2003, a jury visited the home of North Carolina novelist Michael Peterson and found the body of his wife under the stairs. claimed to be dead.

According to a courtroom TV report, Demoris Lee, a Raleigh News & Observer reporter who went with the jurors, said, “They were very curious as to how far they could go up the stairwell.” Many of them climbed up to about the fourth or fifth step, looked back and looked back, waved to check, looked back to see if they could fall or catch them.”

That trial ended in Peterson’s murder conviction, but a judge later ordered a new trial, and Peterson has enough evidence for prosecutors to convict him of manslaughter in 2017. Acknowledging this, he made a special plea.


Richer reported from Boston. Associated Press reporter Terry Spencer contributed from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.


James Pollard is a member of the Associated Press/Reports for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to cover hidden issues.

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