March 2, 2023 - Alex Murdaugh found guilty in the murder of his wife and son

By Elise Hammond, Adrienne Vogt, Matt Meyer, Tori Powell and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 11:33 PM ET, Thu March 2, 2023
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3:41 p.m. ET, March 2, 2023

Defense says Murdaugh lied about whereabouts on night of killings due to drug use

h defense addressed Alex Murdaugh lying about being at the family's dog kennels on the night that his wife and son were killed, with attorney Jim Griffin attributing it to Murdaugh's drug use.

"He lied because that's what addicts do," Griffin said. "Addicts lie."

"He lied because he had a closet full of skeletons," Griffin said, adding Murdaugh "didn't want any more ... scrutiny on him."

Griffin also said the prosecution's argument is "the most ironic thing in the world, because ... their theory is that he slaughtered his wife and son to distract from an impending financial investigation, but he puts himself in the middle of a murder investigation, and he puts himself in the spotlight of a media firestorm?"

Griffin said Murdaugh lied because he was "in the throes of addiction," but he didn't lie about the murders.

11:21 a.m. ET, March 2, 2023

Defense plays back testimony from witnesses who said Alex Murdaugh adored his wife and son

Defense attorney Jim Griffin delivers closing arguments on March 2.
Defense attorney Jim Griffin delivers closing arguments on March 2. (Pool)

In his closing arguments Thursday, defense attorney Jim Griffin played back testimony from Alex Murdaugh's trial that he said illustrates the healthy relationship Murdaugh maintained with his wife and son, whom he is accused of killing.

Griffin argued that a loving relationship between Murdaugh, his wife Maggie and son Paul contradicts the prosecution's argument that the father would gun down his family just to distract attention from a series of alleged financial crimes.

He said witnesses who truly knew the family "testified under oath how much Alex adored Maggie — that was, she was 'his all.' Some people described Paul as Alex's best friend. His relationship with him was awesome. And that was unanimous."

Griffin then played a video from housekeeper Blanca Turrubiate-Simpson's testimony.

"He adored her," Turrubiate-Simpson said of Alex's relationship with Maggie. "He loved her. He adored her."

Griffin also replayed testimony from Roger Dale Davis Jr., who twice-daily cleaned the Murdaugh’s dog kennels.

Davis acknowledged earlier comments he made referring to Alex and his wife as “lovey dovey,” and testified under cross-examination he had never seen Alex raise his voice at Maggie.

"Anything she wanted, or the boys wanted, he would try to get it," Davis said of the Murdaugh patriarch.

"Why, why, why, would Alex Murdaugh, on June 7, execute his son Paul and his wife Maggie, who he adored and loved?" Griffin said after he played the clips.

11:00 a.m. ET, March 2, 2023

Court is taking a short break

Court is now in recess for a 10-minute break in the murder trial of Alex Murdaugh.

Defense attorney Jim Griffin has been presenting his closing argument in the case today.

11:13 a.m. ET, March 2, 2023

Defense alleges investigators "started fabricating evidence" against Murdaugh

Defense attorney Jim Griffin alleged investigators “started fabricating evidence" against Alex Murdaugh in the killings of his wife and son.

“Some of my best friends are law enforcement; I don’t make that claim lightly,” Griffin said in his closing arguments. 

Murdaugh's financial and drug issues made him an "easy target" for the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, also known as SLED, he said.

Griffin said investigators produced a report that said Murdaugh’s T-shirt had high-velocity blood spatter on it, but a previous HemaTrace test had not detected blood.

“They went from Mr. Bloody Shirt leading up to this trial to Mr. Clean during this trial,” he said, adding that no one asked about Murdaugh's clothing until months after the killings.

The issue of Alex Murdaugh changing his clothes the night his wife and son were killed was “late to the dance,” Griffin added. 

When the defense team asked about the blood allegations, Griffin told the jury that SLED agent David Owen said he never got email about the test that indicated no blood splatter.

"Did the dog eat his email?" Griffin asked. "How does the lead investigator in the case not get the lab report that says there's no blood on the shirt?"

On Feb. 15, Owen testified he had told a county grand jury that an expert found multiple particles of blood spatter on the front of the T-shirt, and it was sent to a lab for testing. The test, however, found no blood on the shirt.

“Y’all completely overlooked the fact that when you did a HemaTrace test to confirm whether there’s blood, it came up negative. Wasn’t that overlooked?” asked Griffin.

“I had never seen that report,” responded Owen, who admitted he did not see it until November 2022, just months before the trial began.

Last week, Murdaugh said during his testimony that “there’s no way I had high-velocity blood spatter on me.”

“I have seen reports that said that,” Murdaugh added. “I was nowhere near Paul and Maggie when they got shot.”

CNN's Dakin Andone, Dianne Gallagher and Emma Tucker contributed reporting to this post.

10:42 a.m. ET, March 2, 2023

Defense: Law enforcement "failed miserably in investigating this case"

Defense attorney Jim Griffin delivers closing arguments on March 2.
Defense attorney Jim Griffin delivers closing arguments on March 2. (Pool)

In his closing arguments on Thursday, defense attorney Jim Griffin said investigators made missteps in the murder case against Alex Murdaugh.

“We believe that we’ve shown conclusively that (South Carolina Law Enforcement Division) failed miserably in investigating this case,” Griffin said. “And had they done a competent job, Alex would have been excluded from that circle (of suspects) a year ago or two years ago.”

He said that hair was found in the hand of Alex Murdaugh's wife Maggie on the night she was killed, but he has not seen any testing or conclusions about it.

Previously during cross examination, Griffin had questioned a South Carolina Law Enforcement Division agent's notes in her report that night which said Murdaugh’s wife appeared to have strands of brown hair in her hands and fingers and that Paul appeared to have scratches on his face.

Griffin said agents failed to properly take fingerprints, footwear and tire impressions, and DNA samples off of Maggie and their son Paul's clothes — even though investigators took samples from Alex Murdaugh's clothing.

"They had decided, that 'unless we find somebody else, it's going to be Alex,'" Griffin said.

He also alleged Maggie's phone was not secured properly after investigators found it on the side of a road.

10:04 a.m. ET, March 2, 2023

Closing arguments resume in Murdaugh murder trial

Court proceedings continue on Thursday, March 2.
Court proceedings continue on Thursday, March 2. (Pool)

Closing arguments have resumed in the murder trial of Alex Murdaugh.

Attorney Jim Griffin, one of Murdaugh's attorneys, is presenting the defense's closing argument.

Lead prosecutor Creighton Waters presented for the state Wednesday.

10:44 a.m. ET, March 2, 2023

Juror removed after improper conversations outside of the trial, judge says

From CNN’s Alta Spells and Adrienne Vogt

Judge Clifton Newman speaks in court on Thursday, March 2.
Judge Clifton Newman speaks in court on Thursday, March 2. (Pool)

On Thursday morning, Judge Clifton Newman announced that one juror would be removed and replaced by an alternate after a member of the public reached out to inform the court that the juror engaged in improper conversations with parties not associated with the case.

Newman said they interviewed the juror and interviewed two of the people who were believed to be involved. Both waffled on the nature and extent of the contact, said the judge before announcing that the juror would be removed.

"I've concluded that despite my order to not discuss the case with anyone, that intentionally or unintentionally, you've had some discussions with some folks not on the jury, which is going to require me to remove you from the jury," he said.

He then thanked the juror for their service.

“You have been a — by all accounts — a great juror and smiled consistently and seemingly been attentive to the case and performed well," he said.

"I certainly want to thank you for your service and not suggesting you intentionally did anything wrong, but in order to preserve the integrity of the process and in fairness to all the parties involved, we're going to replace you with one of the other jurors,” the judge continued.

Newman then asked the juror if she had left anything in the jury room, and she said “a dozen eggs and my purse,” to which the judge replied, “say that again, a dozen eggs?” leading to a burst of laughter in the courtroom.

1:06 p.m. ET, March 2, 2023

These were the prosecution's key points to the jury in its closing argument

From CNN staff

Prosecutor Creighton Waters speaks during closing arguments on Wednesday, March 1.
Prosecutor Creighton Waters speaks during closing arguments on Wednesday, March 1. (Joshua Boucher/The State/AP)

State prosecutors said in closing arguments of Alex Murdaugh’s murder trial Wednesday that he was the only person who had the motive, means and opportunity to kill his wife and son in June 2021 – and that his lies afterward betrayed him.

“People lie because they know they did something wrong. That’s why he lied, ladies and gentlemen,” prosecutor Creighton Waters said.

The prosecution described the weeks and months leading up to the murders of Alex Murdaugh’s wife and son as a “gathering storm" which came to head on the night of the killings.

In the prosecution’s telling, the motive was Murdaugh’s attempt to distract and delay investigations into his growing financial problems. The means were two family-owned weapons, Waters argued. And the opportunity was Murdaugh’s presence at the crime scene, as revealed in a pivotal video, minutes before the murders.

“This defendant… has fooled everyone, everyone, everyone who thought they were close to him,” Waters told the jury. “Everyone who thought they knew who he was, he’s fooled them all. He fooled Maggie and Paul too, and they paid for it with their lives. Don’t let him fool you, too.”

How the shootings played out: Waters described what he said was the scene when Paul and Maggie were fatally shot. He said after Paul was hit, Maggie was shot twice at close range when she ran over to him. She is then shot a third time where the bullet goes through the left side of her head, Waters said. Maggie is then shot for a fourth time in the back of the head, he said.

An alibi: Waters argued to the jury that Alex Murdaugh was "manufacturing an alibi" by calling and texting his wife and son, among others, after they were killed. He said any "reasonable person" would remember the last conversation they had with their loved one if they were killed, but argued that Murdaugh "lies convincingly and easily and he can do it as a drop of a hat."

The prosecutor also noted the kinds of questions Murdaugh asked law enforcement after the murders. He said one of the first things Murdaugh did was point out to police how many phone calls he made that night.

The big picture: The prosecution’s focus on Murdaugh’s financial motive and lies underscores the lack of any direct evidence, such as a murder weapon, bloody clothing or eyewitnesses, that connects Murdaugh to the killings. Instead, they have hinged their case on circumstantial evidence, including the consequential video placing Murdaugh at the crime scene that night.

Watch here:

9:12 a.m. ET, March 2, 2023

Who's who in court as the defense starts its closing argument

From CNN's Melissa Gray

Prosecutor Creighton Waters, right, speaks during Alex Murdaugh's trial on Monday, February 27.
Prosecutor Creighton Waters, right, speaks during Alex Murdaugh's trial on Monday, February 27. (Jeff Blake/The State/AP)

Disgraced South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh is on trial for murder in connection to the killing of his wife and son. The defense is set to present its closing argument today.

Murdaugh has pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.

Here are the key people to know as the trial comes to a close:

  • Clifton Newman: The South Carolina Circuit Court judge hearing the case. He has been on the bench since 2000. Newman has presided over various proceedings in the Murdaugh case since 2021.
  • Alex Murdaugh: Now disbarred, Murdaugh is a member of a prominent legal family in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Three generations of his family over 87 years have served as solicitors for the 14th Circuit, which oversaw prosecutions throughout the area.
  • Margaret (Maggie) and Paul Murdaugh: Alex Murdaugh’s wife, Maggie, was 52 when she was found fatally shot with the couple’s younger son, Paul, at the family’s Moselle estate on June 7, 2021. At the time of the shooting, Paul was facing charges in relation to the boating accident that killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach, court records show. He had pleaded not guilty, and the charges were dropped after his death.

The prosecution:

  • Creighton Waters: South Carolina senior assistant deputy attorney general and lead prosecutor. He has been involved with the case since 2021. The state attorney general’s office is prosecuting the case because of the Murdaugh family’s close ties to the local solicitor’s office.
  • John Meadors: A veteran attorney who worked for the Attorney General’s Office for four years before retiring from the Fifth Circuit Solicitor’s Office in 2012. He has tried hundreds of murder trials and was hired by the US Attorney’s Office in early January.

The defense:

  • Richard "Dick" Harpootlian: One of Murdaugh’s defense attorneys. Harpootlian is a South Carolina state senator and attorney whose Columbia-based practice specializes in criminal defense.
  • Jim Griffin: Another one of Murdaugh’s defense attorneys. A former federal prosecutor, he now works as a state and federal criminal defense attorney based in Columbia, South Carolina.
  • Phillip Barber: An associate attorney at Harpootlian’s law firm who is part of Murdaugh’s defense team.