Alex Murdaugh judge compares defence attorney to Kyrie Irving after he shared ‘sloppy investigation’ post

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The judge in Alex Murdaugh’s double murder trial has compared one of his defence attorneys to Kyrie Irving as he scolded him for a social media post branding the criminal investigation “sloppy”.

At the start of day 19 of the disgraced legal scion’s trial in Colleton County Courthouse on Tuesday, Judge Clifton Newman questioned Mr Murdaugh’s attorney Jim Griffin about one of his tweets about the case.

On Saturday, Mr Griffin shared a link to a The Washington Post op-ed titled: “Alex Murdaugh trial reveals a sloppy investigation.”

Before jurors entered the courtroom on Tuesday morning, Judge Clifton Newman brought up the post, saying that he had received emails “concerning a social media post by Mr Griffin commenting on witness testimony and the quality of the investigation by the state”. The judge said that the post then appeared on his own Twitter feed that morning.

“Mr Griffin is this part of your defence strategy?” he asked him.

“Your honour, all I did was retweet an article that was published in The Washington Post,. I didn’t put any comment or make any statement. I just retweeted an article that was in the newspaper,” Mr Griffin responded.

At this point, the judge compared Mr Griffin to NBA star Kyrie Irving who was suspended from the Brooklyn Nets last year for retweeting an antisemitic post.

“We had a professional basketball player who retweeted an article that resulted in him being suspended from the NBA for about 10 days and cost him about $10m in salary, so retweeting is the same as – to some – as if [it’s] your tweet,” he said.

Irving was embroiled in controversy in late October when he tweeted a link to Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America, a documentary which peddles several antisemitic conspiracy theories and falsehoods. The post sparked an instant backlash and he was suspended without pay from the Nets.

After making the comparison, the judge then elicited some laughs when he said he was “not a Twitter friend” of Mr Griffin’s but had still come across the post.

Judge Newman told Mr Griffin that his actions go “against the spirit of the law and does not pass the feel test”.

“It doesn’t pass the feel test” to have him tweeting about the case, he said.

Mr Griffin conceded, saying that: “I will not retweet anything or tweet anything until the trial is over.”

The day’s proceedings were disrupted from the get-go on Tuesday when the judge also announced that one of the alternate jurors had been taken ill.

Alex Murdaugh speaks with defence attorney Jim Griffin during his double murder trial

The juror was “not feeling well” and had gone for a doctor’s appointment, he said.

Because of this, the juror was excused and replaced by another alternate.

Now, only two of the six alternates remain, after two jurors tested positive for Covid-19 last week.

On Monday 13 February, Judge Newman announced that one juror was asymptomatic while a second had a cough and sore throat.

Following the revelation, the defence asked the judge to delay the trial, raising concerns that others could be infected but may not be testing positive yet – something which could threaten to derail the trial altogether if more jurors test positive in the coming days.

Prosecutor Creighton Waters agreed with the defence in asking for a delay for a few days, but Judge Newman declined to postpone the trial.

Instead, the two jurors were both excused and replaced by alternates. Another juror had also previously been excused.

The latest juror excused this week was already one of the alternates drafted in to replace one of the original 12.

The disruption on Tuesday morning came just before Mr Murdaugh’s surviving son Buster took the stand to testify in hids father’s defence.

Buster, 26, has attended Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina, every day since the start of the high-profile trial in a show of support.

This marks the first time that he has ever spoken publicly about the murders of his mother and brother or about his father’s string of alleged crimes.

The defence’s strategy has so far focused on presenting Mr Murdaugh as a loving family man who could never have killed his wife and son in such a brutal fashion – which saw Paul’s brains shot outside of his skull.

The defence’s case began on Friday afternoon and is expected to wrap up by the end of this week.

During the state’s case, jurors heard four weeks of dramatic testimony from 61 witnesses covering a trove of circumstantial evidence including cellphone and car data, a damning video allegedly placing Mr Murdaugh at the crime scene and apparent holes in his alibi for the time for the murders.

Jim Griffin’s social media post which sparked controversy

The final state witness SLED Agent Peter Rudofski laid out a detailed timeline of both the final movements of the two victims – and the movements of their accused killer.

Among the timeline was newly-obtained car data which placed Mr Murdaugh’s car at the spot where his wife’s phone was later found dumped – before he quickly sped away from the scene.

It also showed that he stayed just 21 minutes at his parents’ home that night – less than half the 45 minutes to an hour he claimed to police.

Bombshell testimony from his mother’s carer Muschelle “Shelly” Smith previously disputed Mr Murdaugh’s alibi, saying that he showed up at his sick mother’s house for only 20 minutes that night – before telling her to tell authorities he was there double the length of time.

A cellphone video captured by Paul minutes before the murders also appears to place Mr Murdaugh at the murder scene.

Prosecutors claim that Mr Murdaugh shot dead Maggie and Paul by the dog kennels of the family’s sprawling estate in Islandton, in order to distract from his string of alleged scandals and financial crimes.

During the state’s case, Mr Murdaugh’s attorneys have hinted at a range of theories they plan to present – including that there was two killers and that the murders were tied to a local drugs gang.

Mr Murdaugh, 54, is facing life in prison for the murders of his wife and son. He has pleaded not guilty.