Murdaugh Murder Trial: Defense Focuses on Contaminated Crime Scene in Closing Argument

On Thursday, attorneys representing Alex Murdaugh completed their closing argument, which heavily criticized law enforcement for the way they investigated Maggie and Paul’s murders.

Jim Griffin highlighted apparent missteps by law enforcement in securing and documenting the crime scene, including their failure to secure tire tracks on the property. Griffin also stated that SLED did not check the feed room for fingerprints nor did they take footprint impressions.

Griffin also revisited testimony from early on in the trial which revealed that Maggie was found dead with hair in her hand. He said that hair remains untested, in addition to the fact that DNA was only taken from Alex.

He asked the jury, “Why did they never take DNA samples off of Maggie’s clothes or dress? Why did they never take DNA samples from Paul’s clothes?”

Griffin went on to mention how Maggie’s phone, which was found on the side of the road, was not properly secured by law enforcement. As a result, data of the phone’s whereabouts on June 7, 2021, was overwritten. The phone only contained data from June 9, two days after the slayings.

Previously, Alex’s brother, John Marvin Murdaugh testified that Buster, Alex’s surviving son, showed him how he located Maggie’s missing phone by using Find My iPhone app on his phone. John said he relayed this information to SLED investigators, who dismissed him and told him they had a technology expert coming later.

John reportedly talked to 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone at the scene and they used the app to find Maggie’s phone.

Griffin also emphasized that Alex’s opioid addiction does not mean he is responsible for killing Maggie and Paul. While on the stand, Alex claimed that he lied about being down at the dog kennels, where Paul and Maggie were killed, prior to their slayings.

Alex has claimed he was napping on the family property when his wife and son went to the dog kennels and were fatally shot. Alex said he woke up and went to his mother’s home before returning and finding their bodies.

Alex has admitted that he was the voice heard in a video filmed by Paul at the dog kennels on the night of the murders, the defense scrutinized the state’s timeline of what happened that night. Griffin claimed that prosecutors have concluded that Paul and Maggie must have died the moment their phones became inactive.

Prosecutors said they believe Paul filmed the video at the kennels minutes before he and his mother were murdered. If true, it would place Alex at the murder scene minutes before their slayings.

Griffin also noted that the shirt Alex was wearing when police responded to the scene tested negative for blood — despite the state telling the grand jury otherwise. Previously, Sara Zapata, a SLED forensic scientist, testified that while Paul’s DNA was found on a section of Alex’s shirt, a HemaTrace test came back negative.

Zapata explained that she was not asked to perform the test — which detects human blood — until August 10, more than two months after Paul and Maggie’s slayings.

Zapata said 74 cuttings were taken from Alex’s shirt and none of them tested positive for blood. She testified that she was not aware the shirt was sent for spatter analysis until after the fact. She declined to speak on blood spatter analysis as that is not her expertise.

Zapata said Maggie’s blood was found on Alex’s steering wheel, but speculated that it may have gotten there if Alex checked her pulse.

Prosecutors said cell phone data and forensic evidence tie Alex to the slayings. Meanwhile, Alex’s attorney, Dick Harpootlian, said the cell phone records were incomplete and asserted that Alex would be covered in blood if he killed his wife and son at close range. Harpootlian said no blood was found on Alex’s clothing.

In September 2021, months after Paul and Maggie’s slayings, Alex suffered superficial head wounds when he allegedly had former client Curtis Smith, 61, shoot him in the head so his surviving son, Buster, would receive a $10 million insurance payout.

A day before the shooting, Alex was forced out of his family law firm amid allegations he misappropriated funds.

Two days after the apparent botched suicide, Alex announced he was entering rehabilitation for drugs. Shortly after that, he was charged with insurance fraud in connection with the September 2021 suicide-for-hire plot and released on bail.

However, in October 2021, Alex was rearrested upon leaving a rehabilitation center in Florida for allegedly stealing $4.3 million from Satterfield’s estate. In that case, he was accused of stealing insurance payouts that were intended for Satterfield’s family. Authorities plan to exhume her body amid an ongoing investigation regarding her death.

In addition to the murder charges, Alex faces more than 100 criminal counts related to fraud.

In June 2022, Alex and Smith were indicted for allegedly purchasing and distributing oxycodone in multiple counties. In December 2022, Alex was indicted for tax evasion for allegedly failing to claim the $6 million he allegedly earned through illegal acts between 2011 and 2019.

Alex was charged with Maggie and Paul’s murders days after he was formally disbarred by the South Carolina Supreme Court.

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[Featured image: Joshua Boucher/The State via AP, Pool]