Alex Murdaugh will spend the rest of his life in prison for killing his wife and son

Alex Murdaugh faces sentencing today for killing his wife and son1 1

Alex Murdaugh was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on Friday for the murders of his wife and adult son – another chapter in the downfall of the disgraced attorney whose dynastic family enjoyed significant legal reach for decades in parts of South Carolina’s Lowcountry.

Judge Clifton Newman, before handing down two consecutive life sentences, reminded Murdaugh of his surprising fall from grace, saying he needed to remove a portrait of Murdaugh’s grandfather from the courtroom to ensure a fair trial. But his defense, which included Murdaugh’s testimony, was “incredible, unbelievable,” the judge warned the once prominent attorney.

“You can convince yourself about that, but obviously you have the inability to convince anyone else,” Newman said.

As he did on the witness stand at trial, Murdaugh maintained his innocence on Friday, denying killing his wife, Maggie Murdaugh, and 22-year-old son, Paul Murdaugh.

Newman pointedly asked when his web of deceit will end.

“I know you have to see Paul and Maggie at night when you’re trying to sleep. I’m sure they come to visit. I’m sure,” the judge told Alex Murdaugh at one point in the Colleton County Courthouse.

“Every night,” said Murdaugh, whose family name was once synonymous with the law in parts of South Carolina.

Murdaugh’s defense attorneys said they plan to file a notice of intent to appeal the decision within 10 days.

Defense attorney Dick Harpootlian defended the decision to allow Murdaugh to testify, saying his credibility was being questioned because of his alleged financial misdeeds.

“Once they got the character information – ‘he’s a thief, he’s a liar’ – then this jury had to think he’s a despicable human being and not to be believed,” Harpootlian told reporters after sentencing. . Murdaugh, he added, had always wanted to testify.

Harpootlian told CNN on Friday that his client was “not happy” with the verdict but “expected it”. The lawyer said it was “inexplicable that he would execute his son and his wife in this way, in my mind”.

Defense attorney Jim Griffin said during the sentencing hearing that “it struck me how personal it was” for Newman and that the judge had hired Murdaugh to speak.

“This whole case is quite personal for all the players involved, and that’s what makes it such an unusual setting for a criminal case,” he said.

“Alex planned to limit his words, and he didn’t,” added Griffin.

No victim impact statement

Typically, sentencing hearings include victim impact statements. There were none on Friday. Instead, the hearing was notable for Newman’s direct exchanges with Murdaugh, whose defense the judge said represented “an attack on the integrity of the justice system.”

“I in no way question the state’s decision not to carry out the death penalty,” Newman told Murdaugh.

“But as I sit here in this courtroom and look around (at) the many portraits of judges and other court officials and reflect on the fact that over the past century your family, including you, has prosecuted people here in this courtroom and many received a death penalty probably for minor conduct.”

“Remind me of the expression you gave on the witness stand…” the judge told Murdaugh.

“A tangled web we weave,” Murdaugh said, repeating a line from his testimony.

“What do you mean by that?”

“It meant that when I lied, I kept lying.”

“And the question is when will it end?” Newman said. “When will this end? This is already over for the jury because they concluded that you continued to lie and lie throughout your testimony.

The judge noted Murdaugh’s longtime addition to pain pills.

The killer, Newman told Murdaugh, “may not have been you. It could have been the monster you become when you take 15, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 opiate pills. Maybe you become someone else. I’ve seen this before.

After sentencing, Murdaugh was placed in the custody of the South Carolina Department of Corrections. Wearing a brown jumpsuit and handcuffed, he left the courtroom under the watchful eye of a police officer.

The jury’s verdict came in less than three hours.

After more than a month and dozens of witnesses, it took jurors less than three hours on Thursday to convict Murdaugh of two counts of murder in the June 2021 murders, as well as two counts of possessing a weapon during the commission of a crime. violent crime.

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Prosecutors sought life in prison without the possibility of parole, sparing Murdaugh the death penalty.

“Justice was served today,” lead prosecutor Creighton Waters said at a news conference on Thursday night. “It doesn’t matter who your family is. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, or what people think you have. It doesn’t matter… how prominent you are.

“If you do something wrong, if you break the law, if you kill, then justice will be served in South Carolina.”

The case brought national attention — including Netflix and HBO Max documentaries — to Murdaugh, the former personal injury attorney whose father, grandfather and great-grandfather served as prosecutors in a southern part of South Carolina from 1920 to 2006.

Maggie and son Paul were found shot dead on the family’s Islandton property on June 7, 2021. Alex Murdaugh, who testified last week in his own defense, claimed he found the bodies after returning from a brief visit to his mother. sick that night. .

Prosecutors argued that Murdaugh’s motive was to distract and delay investigations into his growing financial problems. They focused on a fraud story, arguing that he stole millions of dollars from his former clients and law firm and lied to cover his tracks – theft and lies which Murdaugh admitted to in court.

The defense after the verdict asked for a mistrial, but Newman denied this, saying the jury had enough time to consider the evidence – and the evidence of guilt was “overwhelming”.

The defense also attacked investigators in the case, claiming that the South Carolina Division of Law Enforcement “failed miserably” and even forged evidence.

SLED chief Mark Keel told reporters on Friday that he rarely holds press conferences, but it was “important for me to speak up… because Maggie and Paul (Murdaugh) can’t.”

Keel said he was proud of investigators’ hard work “to bring justice to victims”.

“Today is not the end – just the next step on a long road to justice for all the people who were victims of Alex Murdaugh,” said Keel.

‘The evidence was clear’, says juror

In fact, it took the jury less than an hour to find Murdaugh guilty, juror Craig Moyer told ABC.

“The evidence was clear,” said Moyer, the first on the panel to speak publicly about the trial.

The jury began its deliberations with a vote: “It was two not guilty, one not guilty and nine guilty,” he said on Friday, adding that his vote was guilty from the start.

“Everybody was talking, about 45 minutes later… we figured it out,” he said.

With little to no direct evidence linking Murdaugh to the scene, including no eyewitnesses, the prosecution relied largely on circumstantial evidence, including phone and vehicle tracking systems suggesting Murdaugh’s movements on the night of the murders.

And prosecutors pointed to another lie that played a key role in the case: a video clip that placed Murdaugh at the crime scene shortly before the murders, despite his repeated claims throughout the investigation that he was not there.

The video, recorded by Paul near the family’s kennels shortly before the time prosecutors say they were killed, captured Alex Murdaugh’s voice in the background, nearly a dozen friends and family testified.

Murdaugh then testified that the voice was his – and that he lied to investigators about his whereabouts because he became paranoid, which he blamed on his addiction to opiate painkillers.

Moyer, the juror, was surprised when Murdaugh recognized that the voice heard on the video moments before the murders was his own, he said.

It was that fact that convinced Moyer that Murdaugh was guilty, the juror said.

Moyer said the defense’s argument that Murdaugh didn’t have enough time to commit the crimes and clean up was unconvincing.

Murdaugh was “a good liar”, Moyer said, “but not good enough”.

“I didn’t see any remorse or real compassion or anything,” he added, noting when Murdaugh took the stand, “He didn’t cry. All he did was blow snot.

In the end, “it was the victim, Paul Murdaugh, who solved his own murder,” Palm Beach County, Florida, attorney Dave Aronberg told CNN Thursday night about the trial.

The defense had pointed to Murdaugh’s drug addiction.

Defense attorneys asserted that Murdaugh was a loving father and husband who would not harm his family, and argued that authorities failed to adequately screen other suspects. In closing arguments, the defense scoffed at the prosecution’s motive theory as preposterous and said he lied about his whereabouts because he was “in the throes of addiction,” not because he was guilty.

Murdaugh was a partner in a powerful law firm named after him. But that prominence belied the underlying problems, and the murders of his wife and child were followed by accusations of embezzlement, his resignation, an alleged suicide-for-hire plan and insurance scam, a stint in rehab for drug addiction, his impeachment and, ultimately, the murder charges.

In a separate case that has yet to go to trial, Murdaugh faces 99 counts stemming from a range of alleged financial crimes, including defrauding his clients, former law firm and the government of millions.

Murdaugh’s former law firm – which renamed itself the Parker Law Group in light of his actions – called Thursday’s verdict a step towards justice. Several members of the lawyers’ group testified during the murder trial.

“Alex Murdaugh’s actions are shocking to all of us. Tonight’s verdict, which was handed down after a full and fair trial, brings justice and some closure to this terrible matter,” the company said on Facebook. “Maggie and Paul died tragically and for reasons we may never fully understand. They were much loved and we will forever mourn their loss.”

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