March 2 (Reuters) – A lawyer for Richard “Alex” Murdaugh on Thursday accused investigators of fabricating evidence and said their theory about why their client killed his wife and son made no sense , seeking to raise doubts with the jury in the high-profile case. murder trial.
In his closing argument, Jim Griffin said the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), the state’s version of the FBI, failed to review the deceased’s DNA samples and other key evidence that could have exonerate Murdaugh, and had instead focused on him due to his growing drug and money problems.
“It made him an easy, easy, easy target for SLED,” Griffin said, saying Murdaugh could have been ruled out as a suspect. “SLED failed miserably in the investigation of this matter. Had they done a competent job, Alex would have been excluded from this circle.”
Murdaugh, the 54-year-old scion of an influential legal family in an area west of Charleston, was charged with fatally shooting his wife Maggie, 52, and youngest son Paul, 22, in kennels on their estate at night. of June 7, 2021.
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He faces 30 years to life in prison if convicted by the jury, which is due to begin deliberations on Thursday.
The case received intense media coverage given the family’s immense political power in and around Colleton County, where the trial is taking place. For decades until 2006, family members served as the area’s top prosecutor, and Murdaugh was a prominent personal injury lawyer in the Deep South state.
Throughout the month-long trial and during his closing remarks on Wednesday, senior state attorney Creighton Waters sought to portray Murdaugh as a serial liar and argued that he alone had the means and the ability. opportunity to commit the murders.
Waters argued that Murdaugh shot his wife and son dead to generate sympathy and distract from a litany of financial crimes, including the theft of millions of dollars from his legal partners and clients – money used to feed a years-long opioid addiction and support an expensive lifestyle.
Griffin described the state’s alleged motive as absurd, arguing that the killings would only draw more attention to Murdaugh’s allegations of financial wrongdoing.
“That is their theory of the case. If you do not accept that beyond a reasonable doubt, ladies and gentlemen, I submit that the verdict must be ‘not guilty’ because there is no reason for him to do so, no reason whatsoever.”
Griffin repeatedly underscored the high legal bar in criminal cases of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, underscoring the challenge for prosecutors who have built their cases on circumstantial rather than direct evidence.
“If there’s a reasonable reason you’re reluctant to write ‘guilty,’ then the law requires you to write ‘not guilty,'” he said.
Griffin also described a handful of instances where he alleges the state fabricated evidence. They included the claim that Murdaugh had high-velocity blood splatter on his shirt, a claim contradicted by testing by SLED.
One of the strongest pieces of evidence in the state is Murdaugh’s admission on the stand last week that he lied about his whereabouts on the night of the murders, telling investigators he was not at the kennel before murders. Murdaugh changed his story after the jury listened to audio evidence placing him at the scene of the crime minutes before it happened.
Griffin repeated Murdaugh’s claim that he lied to investigators due to paranoia over his drug use, as well as his distrust of the police.
“He lied because that’s what drug addicts do. He lied because he had a closet full of skeletons,” the attorney said.
Earlier Thursday, Judge Clifton Newman removed a juror who engaged in “inappropriate conversations” with people not involved in the trial and replaced her with an alternate.
“While it doesn’t appear the conversations were that long, it did involve the juror giving her opinion on the evidence received up to this point in the trial,” Newman said.
Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Josie Kao and Jonathan Oatis
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