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Judge Jeanine Pirro co-hosts “The Five” on Fox News. She is a former judge and district attorney. She recently made headlines for her prediction on the fate of Alex Murdaugh in his double murder trial.
Judge Pirro spoke to OutKick about the trial, detailing the process, what goes into a verdict, and where the prosecution went wrong:
Bobby Burack: Judge, you said “I would bet my house that there’s one person who’s going to hang on this jury, if not more than one“on Fox News this week.
What led to your prediction of a hung jury?
Pirro: No one knows ultimately how a jury is going to determine the facts of a case. But I think there’s going to be controversy in the jury room. And that results from the fact that this is a circumstantial case.
There is virtually no forensic evidence connecting the defendant to this particular murder.
In a case of circumstantial evidence, as the judge will charge them, you need to convince the jury that all the circumstances are bound together, conclusively, at the point of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Now, I know that sounds complicated. But, remember, most murder cases involve circumstantial evidence. It’s a murder, meaning the main witness is dead.
Rarely do defendants commit murders in front of other witnesses. Most of the murders that I prosecuted in my career, all of them virtually, were circumstantial cases.
The prosecution presented the motive that Alex killed his wife and son to take the focus off of the financial problems. Well, that case is not that good.
People want to understand why he killed Paul. They might understand why it killed Maggie. They know, I believe, she saw a matrimonial attorney, although he presented evidence that the marriage is wonderful.
No one can understand why he would kill Paul.
There are little pieces in the trial that make it clear that Alex called Paul, “a little detective.” Paul had sent two texts about the opioids he was using. He said he and his mother found them and they wanted to talk to him about it.
I might have focused a little more specifically on that, or the boating death. Because that accident exposed Paul to civil liability, which could expose Alex’s financial information.
As well as the possibility of his wife getting a divorce, which would also expose Alex to releasing his financial information.
Ultimately, people are going to disagree because they can’t understand why the guy would kill his son. Why would he blow his brains out?
Bobby: There have been discussions this week about circumstantial evidence. To be clear, a jury can convict a defendant of murder solely on circumstantial evidence and they’d have to in a case like this.
Explain how that works.
Pirro: Absolutely. Here’s the thing: the circumstantial evidence must be consistent with each other. It must point conclusively to guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict. The jury room is going to struggle with that because that’s not something that they’re accustomed to dealing with.
The circumstantial evidence is that Alex was at the kennels at the time just prior to the shooting (as Paul’s phone revealed). Well, that can be consistent with innocence too.
Maybe he was at the kennels for other reasons, such as not killing his wife. That one is a tough one for the jury to understand.
Bobby: It stood out to me that Alex pulled up to the kennels at 10:05:57, per GPS data, the night of the murderers. He called 911 at 10:06:14.
That’s 17 seconds. As the prosecutor said, “Is that enough time for a surprised human being to come across that scene, process what they are seeing, get out of the car, go over there, check both their bodies then call 911?”
Pirro: 17 seconds is the amount of time that he waited. This is all stuff that is going to rest exclusively in the hands of the jury. They’re going to have to figure out what makes sense and what doesn’t make sense.
As a judge and as a prosecutor, I’ve tried tons of cases where the issue is what makes sense to you. Does that make sense to you?
Does it make sense Alex would pull up and not get out of the truck?
Does it make sense to you that he would be in his house and not hear the gunshot?
Does it make sense to you that all of a sudden he remembers now that they have a Snapchat that he was at the kennel?
This is a guy who is a liar who has no credibility. As a judge, I would instruct the jury that they are free to disbelieve everything Alex said during his testimony.
Ultimately, a complicated case can be a simple case. And in every one of these cases, the defense will argue that the cops didn’t do enough. That the cops should have bagged her hands to see what was under her nails. They should have checked to see what hair was in her hands
They brought up the drug dealer theory. That was pretty slick on their part. And why did they say there was no danger to the community right off the bat? Does that mean they just closed the wagons and said it was Alex who committed the crime? Does that mean they didn’t focus enough on other possibilities?
In my opinion, the prosecution didn’t focus enough on domestic violence. You’re more likely as a woman to be killed by a member of your own family, especially a husband, than by any other category. And I know this because I started the first domestic violence unit in the nation in 1978.
Maggie and Paul brought Alex the most problems. Sure, there were dangers with the financial crimes. But there were more problems coming with Maggie and Paul-Paul, as he called him, as it related to that boating accident with Mallory Beach.
Bobby: In the event of a hung jury, what happens next?
Pirro: Okay, so, if there’s a hung jury, the charges remain there. As will his bail status. He was in jail at the time. So, I’m sure he will remain in jail.
The question is whether or not they want to retry the case. That is truly the prosecution’s call.
Everybody knows the evidence: what they had, what the other one had. They are in the best position right now to assess whether or not they go forward and try to take a plea of some sort. I doubt that anyone is going to offer a plea bargain to this guy, though.
But I assume he will be tried again. When I was DA, there were several cases where we got hung juries and went back and got convictions, which is somewhat unusual.
Simply, it will be re-tried again in the event of a hung jury.
Bobby: Where does the Murdaugh case rank among the most high-profile you worked on?
Pirro: Well, remember, I had the Robert Durst case. They don’t get much more high profile than that. That one went on for decades. I reopened that cold case as the sitting DA.
But, that said, Bobby, this Murdaugh case is pretty unusual. It’s pretty high-profile.
We are intrigued by this concept of wealthy southern charm, this southern royalty, this fall from grace. The southern feel, with all the homes, all of the money, makes it more interesting to the public.
Plus, how come someone who appeared so put together be so incredibly devious and demon-like?
Everything is so unusual with this guy.
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