Court is back in session. Newman asks about any further argument regarding Shelley Smith's testimony. Defense attorney Jim Griffin rises. He says in Smith's re-cross, she had never seen that blue rainjacket before.
Griffin is reading from a rough transcript of Smith's testimony. Waters reading from the same transcript. He's stressing that the "blue vinyl item" was bundled up as Alex Murdaugh carried it into the house.
Waters says it should be up to the jury to decide.
Judge Newman weighs in: Smith said it was a “blue something.” It looks like a tarp. “Clearly she did not know what it was. It wasn’t opened up, and she could not clearly identify the item either as a tarp, as shown by Mr. Griffin, or as a raincoat.”
Newman: "She testified that the item appeared consistent in appearance with what Mr. Murdaugh brought into the home that night and what was shown in the photograph that was taken.”
Newman: “Certainly, Mr. Griffin did an effective job in cross-examination and raising questions as to the credibility of the witness.” He says it will be up to the jury to decide. Sounds like Newman won't be ruling the blue rainjacket inadmissible.
Newman: “I find that it is relevant and that it creates, through inference, facts that are in dispute in this case. I deny the motion to strike her testimony, if that’s what the motion is. I deny the motion to declare her testimony as being irrelevant.”
Judge Newman denies that the GSR evidence - as it relates to the blue raincoat - is prejudicial. He delivers another win to prosecutors after ruling in their favor of the admissibility of the alleged financial crimes yesterday.
Judge Newman: "The witness was so all over the place with her testimony and continued to be confused." He said she was "unable to articulate her thoughts" through her emotions and the pressure of this setting.
Newman notes that everything has been protected for the record. Seems to be indicating that if Murdaugh's defense team wants to appeal this later on, they've done everything necessary now to do so.
Newman says the juror who was unsure if he could continue has worked things out with his job and will be able to continue serving. However, an alternate had to go to the ER this morning for reasons we don't yet know. The trial won't wait for them. So they will be excused.
The jury returns to the courtroom. Judge Newman goes back and forth on whether this is Day 11 or Day 12. Been there before. The state is recalling Jeanne Seckinger, the CFO of Alex Murdaugh's old law firm, to the witness stand. She will be the 33rd witness of this trial.
For my sanity and yours, I'm probably not going to detail every single thing Seckinger says today, since I've already done that in previous Megathreads and in previous stories from this trial. But if the state asks her any new questions or elicits new testimony, I'm your guy.
So far, lead prosecutor Creighton Waters is going beat-for-beat through his previous questioning.
Here is the Feb. 2 Megathread that covered Seckinger's testimony. Might be fun to follow it in real-time here and see how closely this questioning tracks.
And here I will acknowledge that my version of "fun" might differ from the average person’s.
Here's some new stuff from Seckinger today about Alex Murdaugh's behavior: He kept different hours from other partners. “Always loud. Always busy. Always in a rush. He had the gift of gab. But he always seemed last-minute, in a hurry, frenetic.” He was constantly on the phone.
Waters asks Seckinger about Murdaugh as a lawyer. “He was successful not from his work ethic, but his ability to establish relationships and to manipulate people into settlements and clients into liking him.” “The art of , basically," Seckinger says.
Seckinger testifies Murdaugh’s legal prowess was personality driven. She said he seemed really forgetful and all over the place, but looking back, he had to have an incredible memory in order to keep his schemes going and undetected.
Seckinger testifies about the time Alex Murdaugh accepted a check from the law firm mistakenly written to him that was meant for his brother Randy. Alex said it was an honest mistake and paid it back. His law partners believed him, she says.
Seckinger on the culture at PMPED, Murdaugh's law firm. “These attorneys work as a brotherhood. … They trusted him and accepted the explanation.”
Seckinger is now explaining the difference between the real "Forge Consulting" financial firm in Atlanta and Alex Murdaugh's "fake Forge" Bank of America account, which he allegedly used to steal huge legal settlements he won for his clients.
Seckinger testifies again about approaching Murdaugh in May 2021 about his effort to try to structure his legal fees from a civil case. She told him he was doing it wrong. She said Murdaugh admitted he was trying to put money in his wife's name so it wouldn't be recoverable …
... from him in the fatal 2019 boat crash wrongful death lawsuit (filed by the Beaches) “That is hiding assets. We are not going to be part of any hiding of assets or any wrongdoing. We were very concerned that he was trying to do that, and we didn’t want to be a part of it.”
Seckinger re-testifies about the process of discovering that $792K in legal fees owed to PMPED had gone missing from a case against Mack Trucks that Murdaugh worked with Bamberg attorney Chris Wilson. “My concern was that he had stolen fees and they were paid to him personally.”
Seckinger testifies she told him, “I have reason to believe you received the (Mack Trucks) money directly to you, and you need to prove to me you did not.” Murdaugh said it was still in Chris Wilson’s account and he needed more time to figure out what to do with it.
Seckinger testifies again the conversation was cut short when Murdaugh got a phone call that his father was in the hospital with a poor prognosis. Randolph Murdaugh III died a few days later.
Seckinger now testifying about the 6/7/21 slayings. Waters: “Did everyone rally to his aid?” Seckinger: “We did. … Nothing happened all week.” Everyone was rushing to Murdaugh's aid. Everyone was grieving. The inquiry into the missing fees stopped.
Seckinger continues: Murdaugh was erratic. We knew he was taking pills. We were concerned about his sanity. UHHHH what? PMPED put out a statement in September claiming they had no idea about Alex Murdaugh's purported opioid addiction.
Lead prosecutor Creighton Waters is in total command when questioning these financial witnesses. He elicits testimony in a chronological narrative. The jury can follow this. It makes sense. Waters knows the answer each of these witnesses will give before he asks each question.
Now contrast that to what's happening with some of the non-financial witnesses, like Shelley Smith yesterday or Rogan Gibson last week.