Murdaugh trial, Day 28: Defense says SLED ‘failed miserably’ in murder investigation

Published: Mar. 2, 2023 at 3:22 PM EST
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WALTERBORO, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - Alex Murdaugh’s defense team delivered closing arguments Thursday morning, which marked the 28th day of the high-profile double murder trial.

Defense attorney Jim Griffin spent about two and a half hours arguing that despite lies, financial crimes and a pill addiction, his client is not a murderer. He said when it came to light in September 2021 that Murdaugh was stealing from his law firm, he became “an easy, easy target.”

“Alex would not have killed the people he loved most in the world,” Griffin said. “There’s no evidence that he would do that.”

Maggie Murdaugh and her son, Paul, were shot to death at their family property in rural...
Maggie Murdaugh and her son, Paul, were shot to death at their family property in rural Colleton County on June 7. Alex Murdaugh, (right), Maggie's husband and Paul's father, along with his other son, Buster, announced a reward for information leading to the conviction of their killers.(Provided)

He argued much of the evidence that was available at the scene where Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were killed on June 7, 2021 was overlooked in a botched investigation by the South Carolina Enforcement Division. He claims if SLED agents had conducted a competent investigation, Murdaugh would have been eliminated from the circle of suspects rather than becoming the focus of it.

“We believe that we’ve shown conclusively SLED failed miserably in this case,” Griffin said.

DNA testing was never performed on the victims’ clothes. Footwear impressions weren’t taken from the sidewalk outside the feed room where experts on both sides testified the killer would have been standing. Maggie’s phone was never placed in a Faraday bag and although it was switched into airplane mode, Griffin said location services were left on. He argued this could have impacted the data that wasn’t extracted until days later.

He went as far as to claim that SLED agents “manufactured” evidence against Murdaugh, like the blue raincoat found at his mother’s house that tested positive for gunshot residue. The defense has argued that law enforcement decided early into the investigation that Murdaugh was their prime suspect - and failed to pursue other possibilities.

Defense attorney Jim Griffin asks Alex Murdaugh if he killed his wife Maggie Murdaugh and son...
Defense attorney Jim Griffin asks Alex Murdaugh if he killed his wife Maggie Murdaugh and son Paul Murdaugh with the 12-gauge shotgun that is in evidence in Murdaugh’s murder trial at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023. Grace Beahm Alford/The Post and Courier/Pool(Pool)

“We have two people that have been executed... they’ve been slaughtered,” Griffin said. “And at this time there’s no danger to the public? Does that tell you that on June 8th law enforcement decided it had to be Alex Murdaugh?”

He disputed the prosecution’s argument that a “storm” was closing in on Murdaugh the week of the murders. The state believes the motive for the murders was the mounting pressure Murdaugh was under - amid colleagues digging into missing money at his firm and a pending lawsuit after the deadly 2019 boat crash.

“There was no impending financial doom on June 7th,” Griffin said. “June 7th was a day which was frankly no different than any other day in the frenetic lifestyle of Alex Murdaugh.”

Griffin described Murdaugh as a family man, which was also something numerous witnesses testified. He replayed audio from testimony where the family’s housekeeper said Alex adored Maggie and their dog caretaker testified the two were “lovey-dovey.” Griffin called Paul the apple of Alex’s eye. Shock from finding his wife and son brutally murdered was to blame for the incorrect timeline he gave investigators, Griffin argued.

From left: Buster, Maggie, Paul and Alex Murdaugh pose for a family photo.
From left: Buster, Maggie, Paul and Alex Murdaugh pose for a family photo.(FOX Carolina News)

“Mr. Waters gets up here and says ‘Maggie was running to her baby.’ Alex was running to his baby,” he said. “Can you imagine what he saw? And is it evidence of guilt that he doesn’t remember what the sequencing was in that moment? Is that evidence? Is that evidence of guilt? Or is that evidence of trauma?”

Griffin balked at what he called the “Mr. Clean theory” presented by the state: prosecutors believe Murdaugh hosed himself off and disposed of evidence after killing Maggie and Paul.

“He would have to be a magician to make all that evidence disappear,” Griffin said, arguing the state’s timeline shows Murdaugh would have only had 17 minutes between the murders and when he left for Almeda.

Murdaugh made multiple calls on the way to Almeda - and the friends and family he spoke with testified that he sounded normal. His mother’s healthcare aid testified that he was not covered in blood when he arrived.

“He’s the same old Alex,” Griffin said. “Yet their theory is, he just... the people he loved the most in this world, blew them away.”

Below is the full blog from the defense’s closing arguments: