(NewsNation) — The jury began deliberating Thursday in the murder trial of disgraced South Carolina former lawyer Alex Murdaugh.
During closing arguments earlier in the day, defense attorney Jim Griffin said law enforcement, in its eagerness to get a suspect, fabricated evidence against Murdaugh, who is accused of killing his wife and son.
“They had decided that unless we find somebody else, it’s going to be Alex,” Griffin said.
Murdaugh, 54, who is charged in the murders of his son, Paul, 22 and wife, Maggie, 52, has also been charged with a number of financial crimes.
From the time Murdaugh found his wife and son dead on June 7, 2021, at dog kennels near their hunting estate in South Carolina, Griffin said, law enforcement saw Murdaugh as someone who was in their circle of suspects.
“We believe that we’ve shown conclusively that SLED (South Carolina Law Enforcement Division) failed miserably in investigating this case, and had they done a competent job, that Alex would have been excluded from that circle a year ago, two years ago,” Griffin said.
Griffin argued that hair that had been seen in Maggie Murdaugh’s hand hadn’t been tested, and that law enforcement failed to take fingerprints, or footwear impressions. He also said Maggie’s phone was not secured properly and he questioned why DNA samples weren’t taken off her clothes as well as Paul’s.
“You know whose clothing they took DNA off of extensively? Alex,” Griffin said.
Because of the nature of the killings, experts from both sides agreed that there had to have been a massive amount of blood — but the prosecution did not present any evidence of blood spatter on clothes. Weapons from the case have also never been found.
“How could (Alex) have butchered Maggie and Paul without leaving a trace of evidence within a matter of minutes?” Griffin said.
Murdaugh, with a longtime addiction to opioids, and financial issues, was an “easy target” for SLED, Griffin argued.
“I hate to say this, but the evidence is crystal-clear — from that moment they started fabricating evidence against Alex,” Griffin said. As a former prosecutor, Griffin added, “I don’t make that claim lightly.”
Some of the prosecution’s strongest evidence against Murdaugh is that he lied about where he was on the night his wife and son died. While he told investigators that he was not at the kennels, Murdaugh was later heard on video footage with Paul and Maggie shortly before they were killed.
Earlier in the trial, Murdaugh said he lied to law enforcement because his addiction problems made him distrustful of state agents.
Griffin repeated these claims Thursday.
“He lied because that’s what addicts do. He lied because he had a closet full of skeletons,” the attorney said.
Along with arguing that law enforcement botched the investigation, Griffin said Murdaugh, his son and wife had a loving relationship, playing testimony of people who worked for them to make his point.
Ending his argument, Griffin asked the jury not to “compound a family tragedy with another” and to find Murdaugh not guilty.
Prosecutor John Meadors, though, said he found the defense’s claim that law enforcement officials didn’t do their jobs “offensive,” and that the case was “common sense.”
“It’s almost like circumstantial evidence morphed into direct evidence,” Meadors said. “That’s what happened in this case.”
The defense, Meadors said, was blaming everybody but Murdaugh for Paul and Maggie’s demise.
“They’re trying to put us on trial for doing our job,” Meadors said.
This trial, Meadors said, was the state against Murdaugh, not SLED or other law enforcement agents.
“Think about it. Rush to judgment? They gave that man every benefit of the doubt,” he said.
Throughout his closing, Meadors kept challenging Murdaugh’s alibi, as well as his claim that he lied to police about his whereabouts on June 7.
“You don’t lie and misremember being at the scene of a murder when you said you weren’t even there, or being at the scene where your family was brutally murdered,” he said. “You don’t lie about that. That’s not a mistake.”
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this story.