The family of Stephen McDaniel, who is accused of killing his neighbor and law school classmate Lauren Giddings, plans to hire a private investigator to check into allegations made in the case.
Floyd Buford, McDaniel's attorney, said Tuesday he is interviewing candidates and plans to select an investigator to work on his case within the next few days.
Buford has said his client is innocent, both of murdering Giddings and of two burglaries he's charged with. Police initially arrested him on burglary charges less than a day after Giddings' torso was found outside her apartment building.
Buford discussed assertions by McDaniel's mother in interviews with WSB-TV and the Telegraph that her son may have been framed and that police should be looking at another resident at the apartments as a possible suspect.
"The investigator is going to investigate a whole host of issues, the comment that she made earlier in the week about the maintenance man, we've been aware of that probably within 24 hours after Stephen was arrested, so that's something we were aware of. So it's that issue and other issues that we're going to investigate, so we can help prepare a good defense for Stephen," Buford said.
Buford was referring to David Dorer, also a former Mercer Law student. His lawyer, Brett Steger, released a statement Monday to 13WMAZ saying Dorer has cooperated with police and is not a suspect or a person of interest in the Giddings case.
Tuesday afternoon, Buford talked with 13WMAZ's Lauren DiSpirito. It was the first interview he gave in front of cameras since he took on McDaniel's case.
Buford attended Mercer Law School. He says he has practiced law in Macon for 26 years.
In a prepared statement before our interview, Buford asked the public to consider that in the U.S., people are considered innocent of criminal accusations until proven guilty.
"Today, the finger of suspicion is pointed at Stephen McDaniel; tomorrow, it could be you," he said.
Buford describes his client as a courteous and nice young man of many talents. He attended Mercer University as an undergraduate on a scholarship, Buford said.
"I personally think he is sort of a Renaissance man. He is interested in a lot of different areas, he sung in church choirs, he's very knowledgeable on a lot of issues, can be very articulate, he likes to play the violin," Buford says.
He says in the days since police charged him with Giddings' murder, about a dozen people, including former classmates and law professors, have reached out in support of McDaniel.
Buford says he doesn't "put any emphasis" on reports that McDaniel is socially awkward.
"Because if that is of significance, socially being awkward or different, if that's the standard that individuals use to convict someone, our jails, which in Georgia I think are the most overcrowded in the country, would be even more," Buford said. "I don't think he's awkward, I think he's thoughtful."
When asked if he believes his client has been treated fairly in the case, Buford responded that his focus is what will happen inside the courtroom.
"Consider we have a young man accused of a brutal crime and he's certainly entitled to his day in court," Buford said.
Buford would not say what, if any, motions he will file should a grand jury indict McDaniel. He's fielded questions about whether he'll ask for a hearing to determine McDaniel's competency to stand trial, ask for a change of venue, and whether he'll appeal a judge's ruling that the Bibb County District Attorney's Office has no conflict of interest in prosecuting McDaniel, who had interned in the D.A.'s office.
Buford says he will not appeal the conflict of interest ruling for now. He said he has not decide on other motions.
A commitment hearing for McDaniel had been scheduled for August 17, but has been pushed back to August 26, Buford said, because the lead detective in the case would not be able to attend on the 17th.
Buford says he is ready to present his case at the commitment hearing. He would not discuss what he thinks of allegations in the arrest warrant.
The warrant said police found packaging for a hacksaw in McDaniel's apartment and that a hacksaw of the same brand was found with Lauren Giddings' DNA on it in a locked storage closet at the apartment complex.
The warrant also alleged that McDaniel made previous statements that he knew how to commit murder without getting caught.
"There are two sides to a coin," Buford said. "They have their view, and we have our view, and our view is completely different."