Jury finds South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh guilty of murdering his wife and son
Disgraced South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh was convicted of murder Thursday in the shooting deaths of his wife and son in a case that chronicled the unraveling of a powerful Southern family with tales of privilege, greed and addiction.
The jury deliberated for less than three hours before finding Murdaugh guilty of two counts of murder at the end of a six-week trial that pulled back the curtain on the once-prominent lawyer’s fall from grace.
Murdaugh, 54, faces 30 years to life in prison without parole for each murder charge at his sentencing hearing, scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Friday.
About 30 members of the public seated in the courtroom were largely quiet as the verdict was read. A court officer had earlier warned them against any outbursts.
Murdaugh’s surviving son, sitting about four rows behind his father and the defense team, frequently rested his face in the palm of his left hand before and during the reading of the verdict.
After the verdict, Murdaugh’s defense team moved to have a mistrial declared and the outcome tossed out, but Judge Clifton Newman denied the motion and commented on the massive amount of evidence and testimony jurors had heard.
“The jury has now considered the evidence for a significant period of time,” he said. “And the evidence of guilt is overwhelming.”
Murdaugh murders: South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh is sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of murdering his wife and son in 2021.
The state’s legal team emerged from the courthouse to a celebratory atmosphere. South Carolina Atty. Gen. Alan Wilson thanked the prosecution for having spent late nights at a local hotel over the last six weeks. “It was all worth it. Because we got to bring justice and be a voice for Maggie and Paul Murdaugh,” Wilson said.
“Today’s verdict proved that no one — no matter who you are in society — is above the law,” he added, to the applause of the growing crowd.
Disgraced South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh took the stand in his own defense at his double murder trial.
Defense attorney Jim Griffin told reporters the Murdaugh team was disappointed in the outcome but would have no further comment until sentencing.
Through more than 75 witnesses and nearly 800 pieces of evidence, jurors heard about betrayed friends and clients; Murdaugh’s failed attempt to stage his own death in an insurance fraud scheme; a fatal boat crash in which his late son, Paul, was implicated; the housekeeper who died in a fall in the Murdaugh home; the grisly scene of the killings; and Bubba, the chicken-snatching dog.
In the end, Murdaugh’s fate appeared sealed by cellphone video taken by Paul, whom his father called “Little Detective” because he had a knack for finding bottles of painkillers in Murdaugh’s belongings after the lawyer had sworn off the pills.
Testimony culminated in Murdaugh’s appearance on the witness stand, when he admitted he’d stolen millions from clients and had lied to investigators about being at the dog kennels where the shootings took place, but steadfastly maintained his innocence in the deaths of his wife and younger son.
“I did not kill Maggie, and I did not kill Paul. I would never hurt Maggie, and I would never hurt Paul — ever — under any circumstances,” Murdaugh said.
Maggie Murdaugh, 52, was shot four or five times with a rifle, and their son Paul Murdaugh, 22, was shot twice with a shotgun at the kennels near their rural
Colleton County home on June 7, 2021.
Prosecutors didn’t have the weapons used to kill the pair, or other direct evidence such as a confession or blood spatter. But they had a mountain of circumstantial evidence, led by a video locked inside Paul Murdaugh’s cellphone for more than a year — video shot minutes before the killings that captured the voices of all three Murdaughs, witnesses testified.
South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh now says he lied when he maintained that he wasn’t at the family dog kennels with his wife and son before they were killed.
Alex Murdaugh had told police repeatedly after the killings that he was not at the kennels that evening. He said he was napping before he went to visit his ailing mother that night. After he returned home, Murdaugh called 911 and said he had discovered the bodies.
But in his testimony, Murdaugh admitted that he’d joined Maggie and Paul at the kennels, where he said he took a chicken away from a rowdy yellow Labrador named Bubba — whose name Murdaugh can be heard saying on the video — before heading back to the house, supposedly shortly ahead of the fatal shootings.
Murdaugh lied for 20 months about being at the kennels before taking the stand on the 23rd day of his trial. He blamed his decades-long addiction to opioids for making him paranoid and creating a distrust of police. He said that once he went down that path, he felt trapped in the lie.
“Once I told a lie — I told my family — I had to keep lying,” he testified.
A prosecutor says that Alex Murdaugh’s theft of millions of dollars was about to be revealed, and that he killed his wife and son to buy time to figure a way out.
Prosecutor Creighton Waters grilled Murdaugh about his “new story,” assailing his “fuzzy” memory of certain details of what happened before he left the kennels, such as his last words to his wife and son.
A state agent testified that markings on spent cartridges found around Maggie Murdaugh’s body matched markings on fired cartridges at a shooting range on the property, though the defense said such matching is an inexact science.
Murdaugh comes from a family that dominated the local legal scene for decades. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather were the area’s elected prosecutors for more than 80 years, and his family law firm grew to dozens of lawyers by suing railroads, corporations and other big businesses.
The Alex Murdaugh murder trial has fueled a cottage industry, including a beneficial relationship between live trial coverage and feuding docuseries.
The now-disbarred attorney admitted he’d stolen millions of dollars from the family firm and clients, saying he needed the money to fund his drug habit. Before he was charged with murder, Murdaugh was in jail awaiting trial on about 100 other charges, including insurance fraud and tax evasion.
Prosecutors told jurors that Murdaugh was afraid all of his misdeeds were about to be discovered, so he killed his wife and son to gain sympathy to buy time to cover his tracks.
Murdaugh’s lawyers will almost certainly appeal the conviction based on the judge allowing evidence of the financial crimes, which they contend were unrelated to the killings and were used by prosecutors to smear Murdaugh’s reputation.
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