BLOG: Day 15: Housekeeper testimony ignites dueling objections

Published: Feb. 10, 2023 at 3:00 AM EST|Updated: Feb. 10, 2023 at 5:00 PM EST
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WALTERBORO, S.C. (WCSC) - Questions posed by lawyers on both sides of the Alex Murdaugh murder trial caused voices and tempers to raise in a Colleton County courtroom Friday.

Testimony from Murdaugh’s housekeeper Blanca Simpson led Judge Clifton Newman to send the jury out twice during the testimony in response to heated objections.

The first came from defense attorney Dick Harpootlian who objected to a line of questioning about a conversation between Simpson and Maggie Murdaugh when she said Maggie confided in her that she was worried about money.

Harpootlian quickly rose to object to questions about the conversation and prosecutor John Meadors asked if Maggie was worried about money before a ruling on the objection could be made.

Harpootlian emphatically objected again, this time slamming a folder full of papers onto the defense desk.

Harpootlian called for a mistrial after the question.

“You can’t unring the bell,” Harpootlian said.

Both the objection and the motion for mistrial were denied by Newman.

Simpson told jurors about the morning of the killings saying she went to the Moselle home and Maggie and Paul were gone and Alex was still asleep.

Alex Murdaugh left for work wearing a seafoam green polo shirt, khaki pants, blue sportscoat and brown leather shoes, Simpson said.

When shown a screenshot of the Snapchat video from Paul Murdaugh’s phone, Simpson said the pants looked to be the same but the shirt was different and said she never saw those clothes again.

Simpson said she had talked to Maggie Murdaugh on the phone who told her Alex Murdaugh wanted her at Moselle on the night of June 7, 2021, instead of the Edisto Beach house that she wanted to go to and he had asked Paul Murdaugh to come home to fix a mistake made by C.B. Rowe.

Simpson had cooked dinner for the family that morning, she said.

Simpson told jurors she got a phone call from Alex Murdaugh on the morning of June 8, 2021, and he said, “B, they’re gone. They’re gone.”

Simpson said she thought he meant they had gone to the Edisto Beach house and he said, “No B, they’re dead.”

Simpson was asked to go to Moselle after going to see Alex and Buster Murdaugh at Almeda.

Pots that would have normally been on the stove from the night before were placed in the refrigerator with the lids on, Simpson said.

She also noted other unusual things in the home like a puddle of water next to a pair of khakis by the shower and a damp towel in the closet.

Maggie’s pajamas were neatly folded in the doorway to the laundry room, Simpson said.

Simpson said she was asked to stay in the Moselle house with her husband until Murdaugh “decided what he wanted to do with it.”

Murdaugh had asked Simpson to meet with him at the home he was staying in after the murders and the shirt he was wearing on the day of the killings was brought up, she said.

Simpson said it didn’t sound like he was asking about it.

“It felt more like he was trying to convince me of the shirt that he was wearing,” Simpson said.

The defense failed in attempts Thursday to challenge witnesses and financial testimony stricken from the record. The defense jumped at any chance to strike a witness, especially one testifying about Alex Murdaugh’s many financial charges.

Questions arose from a GoFundMe account linked to witness Shelley Smith seemingly created by her children “for her bravery.” Smith was a caregiver for Murdaugh’s ailing mother. Smith took the stand earlier this week, testifying that Murdaugh tried to fudge the time of his alibi. She said she saw Murdaugh on the night of the murders at his mother’s house for about 20 minutes.

READ RECAP: Defense tries to toss financial evidence in Murdaugh murder trial

Murdaugh’s lawyers argued that attorney Mark Tinsley, a financial witness, should not be allowed to testify because he made a $1,000 donation to Smith’s fundraising page.

“He made a financial payment to a witness in the middle of the trial that he has a financial interest,” defense attorney Phillip Barber said. “She is under subpoena, she is still under subpoena. He made a $1,000 payment as a reward for her honesty. "

The judge denied this motion, as well as the motion to block Tony Satterfield’s testimony. Satterfield is the son of the late Gloria Satterfield, a longtime Murdaugh housekeeper who died after a trip-and-fall accident in the Murdaugh home.

Key prosecution witness Chris Wilson, an attorney and Murdaugh’s former best friend, also testified about Murdaugh owing him money that he promised to pay back but never did.

SPECIAL SECTION: The Murdaugh Cases

The trial is expected to continue approximately two more weeks before the jury is expected to begin deliberations.