WALTERBORO, S.C. (WSAV) — Closing arguments are underway in the double murder trial of disgraced former attorney Alex Murdaugh. Murdaugh is accused of killing his wife and youngest son at their Lowcountry hunting lodge in June of 2021.
On Wednesday, jurors visited the Murdaugh family hunting lodge where the killings took place. Following the trip, prosecutor Creighton Waters delivered a compelling closing argument to the jury, reminding them of Alex’s lies throughout the investigation and trial.
The defense delivered its closing arguments Thursday and defense attorney Jim Griffin explained to the jury why Alex Murdaugh did not kill his wife and son. Then, John Meadors finished with the state’s rebuttal argument.
Judge Newman is charging the jury, giving them instructions on their deliberations, and then the jury should start deliberations as early as this afternoon.
Closing arguments will resume at 9:30 a.m.
WSAV News 3 will provide extensive coverage through the end of the trial. Follow our live blog below and watch the final days live each day on wsav.com and in the WSAV NOW app.
WSAV is streaming all throughout the Alex Murdaugh murder trial. Follow WSAV‘s Investigative Reporter @WSAVAndrewD and Reporter @JLeonardNews for live tweets and keep up with the trial via our live blogs on wsav.com. Tune in to News 3 at 4 p.m., 5 p.m., and 6 p.m. for full coverage.
ALEX MURDAUGH MURDER TRIAL LIVE BLOG:
9:39 a.m. — Judge Clifton Newman gavels court into session. Newman says a juror was questioned about talking to at least three people about the case. Newman has removed that juror for discussing their opinion with another.
9:57 a.m. — Defense attorney Jim Griffin begins his closing arguments.
He says his goal is to clear up any questions or confusion the jury may have. He goes through the jury’s obligations, including leaving their opinions of the case at the courthouse door and instead strictly ruling on the evidence.
Griffin explains the meaning behind a reasonable doubt. “You’ll be making one of the most consequential decisions of your lifetime.” Griffin reminds the jury that criminal trials require the highest standard of the burden of proof to convict a defendant.
Griffin brings up how juries in the country of Scotland function. He says they have three options: guilty, not guilty and not proven. He says in America, the legal system coupled not guilty and not proven into one option.
Griffin says Murdaugh called 911 after finding his wife and son dead each in a pool of blood. Murdaugh was standing there with a shotgun resting against his truck. Griffin says it’s reasonable to think Murdaugh should’ve been a suspect but the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) didn’t do their due diligence in their investigation. He says the fact that a press release from police the following day saying there was no threat to the public proves they didn’t conduct a thorough investigation.
“Had they done a competent job, Alex would’ve been excluded from that circle a year ago, two years ago, but we would’ve been excluded,” Griffin says. He also says police should’ve secured the scene and not allowed the many cars to drive down into the property.
Griffin asks about potential hair that was found in Maggie’s hand at the scene. He says SLED didn’t test it and didn’t investigate it further.
He says SLED’s attitude was “unless we find someone else, it’s gonna be Alex.” Griffin says during the investigation Murdaugh asked for OnStar data from his SUV because he claims it would’ve cleared his name.
Griffin has now moved on to the blood spatter controversy with Murdaugh’s shirt. He says they didn’t reveal the no-blood results.
“The issue of changing clothes, it was late to the dance,” Griffin says. “How does the lead investigator in the case not get the lab report that there’s no blood on the shirt … here we are with a Mr. Clean theory.”
10:30 a.m. — Griffin now begins talking about the blue tarp/blue raincoat that the state alleges Murdaugh brought into his mom’s home after the killings. Griffin says several family members and Murdaugh himself testified that they had never seen the jacket before.
“Manufactured evidence, ladies and gentlemen,” Griffin says.
Griffin begins talking about how Paul was killed and with what ammo. Griffin says SLED agents were wrong about the ammo found at Murdaugh’s home and their guns. He says they yhen mislead the jury about it.
10:37 a.m. — Griffin begins talking about the kennel video and how Murdaugh lied about being at the kennels.
“No blood spatter, no GSR rain jacket that’s ever been connected to Alex whatsoever and there’s no loaded weapons,” Griffin says. He says the only thing SLED has is that Murdaugh lied about being at the scene minutes before the killings. But Griffin says Murdaugh lied because of his opioid addiction not because he killed Paul and Maggie.
Griffin plays the kennel video for the jury. “Four minutes later, the state would have you believe Alex Murdaugh up and blew his son’s brains out and shot and murders his wife after having that conversation about Bubba having a chicken,” Griffin says.
Griffin says the state’s theory of time of death is based on Paul and Maggie not answering texts. “If you’re not answering a text two minutes after you receive it, you’re dead at that point and that’s their case on time of death. Phone stops moving, you’re dead.”
Griffin says Murdaugh had no motive at all to kill Paul or Maggie. He says there was no sign of strife, conflict or any anger heard in the kennel video. “If you don’t accept that beyond a reasonable doubt, ladies and gentlemen, I submit the verdict has to be not guilty because there is no reason for him to do it, no reason whatsoever.”
Griffin says even if Murdaugh was on the edge of being exposed for the alleged financial crimes, Murdaugh still wouldn’t have decided to murder his family. Griffin continues to hammer the point he believes Murdaugh didn’t have the motive to commit the crimes.
10:58 a.m. — Judge Newman issues a short break.
11:15 a.m. — Griffin picks back up his closing argument. Griffin points out that the shotgun that killed Paul was never found or identified.
Griffin says “there’s no evidence to support” the state’s theory that Murdaugh had possibly used two weapons to plant the theory of two shooters in an attempt to exonerate him. He also says Murdaugh never testified that witnesses such as Shelly Smith and Blanca Simpson lied during their testimony. Griffin says it’s possible they just simply misremembered details.
Griffin argues that the amount of time Murdaugh spent at his mom’s house proves that he drove over there to check on her and drove back. He says he Murdaugh didn’t hide murder weapons or bloody clothes.
Griffin talks about the theory that Murdaugh tossed Maggie’s phone out of the window. He pokes fun at the cellphone expert who testified that he threw a phone around in his office without recording data tot prove how phone’s orientation will change.
Griffin begins talking about the state’s circumstantial evidence. He says circumstantial evidence has to stand up to more scrutiny than direct evidence.
Griffin again goes back to the point that Paul stopped using his phone at 8:49 p.m. which is when the state says Paul was killed. “That’s what they have here, that is their case.”
11:45 a.m. — Griffin begins showing the jury a presentation of Maggie’s phone data. Her phone’s backlight cuts on and off several times after 8:50 p.m. Her phone also opens its camera for one second at 8:54 p.m.
“Point is, there’s a lot going on with Maggie’s phone at 8:55,” Griffin says. Griffin suggests the person who didn’t answer Murdaugh’s phone call at 9:04 p.m. could’ve been a “bad guy” who killed her.
Griffin says the timeline data says Maggie’s phone was moving at 9:06 p.m. but it doesn’t show any steps taken. But Murdaugh’s phone was taken steps between 9:02 p.m. and 9:06 p.m. He says it’s fair to believe Maggie’s phone wasn’t with Murdaugh during that time.
Griffin says the state’s theory that Murdaugh took Maggie’s phone is a “stretch.” He also questions why Murdaugh would take her phone and not Paul’s too.
Griffin also says Murdaugh wouldn’t have enough time to clean off and hide evidence in the amount of time according to the timeline. “He’s got 17 minutes. He would have to be a magician to make all that evidence disappear,” Griffin.
12:07 p.m. — Griffin says the most common sense theory is that there were two shooters. He says it wouldn’t make sense for one person to bring two guns to kill Maggie and Paul.
Griffin then brings up the SLED interview with the controversial moment when the SLED agent David Croft says Murdaugh told them “I did them so bad.” Griffin says that Murdaugh actually said, “They did him so bad.”
Griffin says Murdaugh told police he was concerned about Buster’s safety following the killings. In the video, Murdaugh asks for a police officer to protect his son in Columbia, South Carolina.
Griffin also says Murdaugh’s incorrect timeline was just him simply misremembering things. He says despite Murdaugh telling police he checked pulses before calling 911 and now saying he checked their pulses after he called 911 was simply just him misremembering.
12:21 p.m. — Griffin says the state’s theory that Murdaugh murdered his wife and son to bring attention away from his alleged financial crimes is “illogical.”
“The state has failed to provide a satisfactory answer to this question. The state cannot provide an answer to this question because the answer is he would not. He would not under any circumstances murder those who mean the most to him.”
Griffin says the only two words this case demands are “not guilty.”
12:27 p.m. — Judge Newman issues a 5-minute break before the state begins its rebuttal closing argument.
12:41 p.m. — Prosecutor John Meadors begins the rebuttal of Griffin’s closing argument. He begins by thanking the jury for sitting through six weeks of testimony.
“This is a common sense case,” Meadors says. Meadors says Murdaugh was obstructing justice by withholding the fact that he was at the kennels minutes before Paul and Maggie.
“This case is about that defendant never being real … ladies and gentlemen they blame everybody but Alex,” Meadors says. Meadors brings up the fact that Murdaugh didn’t call Buster immediately after the killings. He is arguing that Murdaugh wasn’t afraid someone was hunting the Murdaughs because he didn’t tell anyone to go check on his mom or warn Buster.
12:56 p.m. — Meadors establishes the point that to find a defendant not guilty it must be beyond a reasonable doubt and not just simply some doubt.
Meadors says Murdaugh went to his mom’s house after the killings to create an alibi and hid guns. Meadors recounts Shelly Smith’s testimony where she claims Murdaugh came to her to tell her what time Murdaugh was at his mom’s house. He told Smith he was there for 45 minutes, but Smith and GPS data say he wasn’t there that long.
“I don’t why he killed his wife and son … I think he did it to protect the one he loved the most, the one he really loved the most, so he could keep his lifestyle and not be embarrassed financially,” Meadors says.
Meadors recounts Blanca Simpson, the Murdaugh housekeeper’s testimony on how she thought the way she found Maggie’s pajamas was unusual. Meadors also talks about how Murdaugh told her what shirt he was wearing on the day of the killings. Simpson says Murdaugh was not wearing the type of shirt he told her he was wearing.
Meadors also says he finds it odd that Murdaugh had lawyers with him on the night of the killings. He says if his wife and son were killed he wouldn’t have called lawyers.
Meadors says Murdaugh would’ve never admitted he lied about being at the kennels if SLED didn’t discover the kennel video on Paul’s phone. Meadors says the state has proved it there was no one else who could’ve killed them.
He says the reason Murdaugh was speeding to his mom’s house and back after the murders was because he was anxious. He says Murdaugh sloppily loaded the wrong shells in the shotgun too.
1:37 p.m. — Meadors brings up the interview Murdaugh gave police after the failed suicide attempt in September 2021, roughly three months after the killings. Murdaugh is heard telling police that he apologized for lying to them.
“I think he loved Maggie and I think he loved Paul but you know who he loved more than that, and who’s he going to make sure that life, wanted to make sure that life — he loved Alex and he exercised his greatest power of choice to make sure that life continued or try and he couldn’t,” Meadors says.
Meadors has the final word in the case, ending his rebuttal by imploring the jury to find Murdaugh guilty of killing his wife and son.
1:39 p.m. — Judge Newman issues a lunch break and says he will charge the jury following the break.
3:06 p.m. — The jury returns.
Judge Newman explains to the jury their duties in reaching a verdict.
3:36 p.m. — The whole jury is dismissed to the jury room except for the alternate.
Update following jury deliberations: