“Did the dog eat his email?” defense attorney Jim Griffin sardonically said Thursday about one of the state’s major slip-ups in the murder case against Alex Murdaugh. “How does the lead investigator in the case not get the lab report that says there’s no blood on the shirt?”
During a relatively short two-and-a-half-hour closing argument, the defense repeatedly told jurors they cannot trust the state’s evidence. Griffin pointed to missteps made during the initial investigation into the brutal murders of Maggie Murdaugh, and Paul Murdaugh, at Moselle on the night of June 7, 2021. The attorney insisted those missteps amounted to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) framing his client.
Incriminating evidence was and remains hard to find, Griffin told jurors. And ruling Alex Murdaugh out as a suspect with GPS data that could have been secured by competent investigators—but which was not secured by SLED—was even lower on the state’s agenda, the defense attorney argued.
Then came the infamous roadside shooting and admitted suicide attempt, part of a broader insurance fraud scheme, that made his client’s “longtime” drug addiction and years’ worth of various financial misdeeds public knowledge.
“That made him an easy, easy, easy target for SLED,” Griffin said. “And I hate to say this but the evidence is crystal clear. From that moment, they started fabricating evidence against Alex.”
After accusing SLED of explicit wrongdoing, the defense attorney mimed a jurors’ voice to anticipate criticism that “all lawyers” say their clients were framed by the cops. Griffin answered the criticism by nothing that he is a former federal and state prosecutor himself and that many of his best friends are members of law enforcement.
“I don’t make that claim lightly,” the attorney said. “Here, what you have heard is they came up with a report that says Alex’s T-shirt had high-velocity blood spatter on it.”
As it turned out, the state’s own confirmatory testing showed there was no blood spatter on the shirt at all. Those tests results, Griffin said, were not shared with an expert who was later pressured by SLED to issue the report indicating the shirt contained blood spatter.
“When it surfaced, they had a problem on their hands,” Griffin said. “And they were pushing it up until this trial. And you heard the testimony from the stand. That they went from ‘Mr. Bloody Shirt’ to ‘Mr. Clean’ during this trial.” During trial, the state did not offer blood spatter evidence but shifted their approach to account for the defendant having changed clothes on the day of the murders.
But when Alex Murdaugh was indicted, Colleton County grand jurors were told by law enforcement he had blood spatter on the T-shirt he was wearing the night Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were found shot and killed. That turned out to be false. The state’s own laboratory testing showed no blood on the T-shirt—a fact investigators kept hidden from an expert later asked to assess the shirt for blood spatter.
The facts about that T-shirt have proven quite controversial in the case and are considered a significant black eye for the state.
When the defendant took the stand, the failed blood spatter claims were made clear to jurors (over an objection by the prosecution).
As it turned out, the state’s original theory about the presence of blood spatter on the T-shirt came from a former member of law enforcement who reversed his own would-be expert findings in the second draft of a report—but only after he received an in-person visit from SLED.
The defense also claims the state “had to lie to him” about what state-ordered testing of the shirt showed–a reference to SLED admittedly saying one thing in their lab testing of the shirt and another thing in the grand jury presentation based on the revised blood spatter report.
Lead investigator and SLED agent David Owen admitted he was wrong about that blood spatter evidence when he took the stand, saying he misled the grand jury but that he did not intend to do so.
Griffin reprised the fabrication claims as he neared the end of his closing arguments in the biggest Lowcountry trial of the century.
“Your oath requires that you hold the state to the exacting standard of proof,” the defense attorney said. “That the state must prove the defendant guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. And when they rely solely on circumstantial evidence these circumstances must be consistent with each other. And when taken together, point conclusively to the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt. And if they merely portray the behavior of the defendant as suspicious, you must find him not guilty.”
The defense claims there are only a series of inferences stacked together against their client–and simply not enough to convict him. They also insist there’s no motive for the murders that makes any real sense.
“The state’s evidence fails to meet these requirements,” Griffin went on. “Circumstances don’t point conclusively to Alex’s guilt–far from it. Mr. Waters wants you to believe that Alex slaughtered Maggie and Paul on June 7th and repeatedly lied and changed his story to fit the timeline and evidence. As it turns out, as it turns out, in fact, the state is the one that’s been manipulating evidence to fit their theory of guilt–which changed over time from the date of these murders until yesterday.”
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