South Carolina judge sentences ex-lawyer to two consecutive life sentences for murder of wife and son
A disgraced ex-lawyer convicted of murdering his wife and son after a six-week trial that spanned the United States has been sentenced to two consecutive life terms.
At trial, Alex Murdaugh said he was not guilty of the June 7, 2021 shooting at the family’s sprawling South Carolina residential and farming complex.
Judge Clifton Newton suggested Friday that Murdaugh’s opioid addiction may have made him “a monster” and that “the person in front of me was not the person who committed the crime, although it is the same person.”
Before handing down the verdict, Newton said the murders qualified for the death penalty, but he “had no doubts at all” about prosecutors’ decision not to pursue that option.
Murdaugh maintained his innocence before being convicted.
“I respect this court, but I am innocent and under no circumstances would I hurt my wife Maggie, and under no circumstances would I hurt my son Paw-Paw,” said Murdaugh, citing a nickname he used for his son. Paul.
Murdaugh is part of a legal dynasty. He was sentenced in the same courtroom on the circuit where his father, grandfather and great-grandfather tried cases as elected prosecutors for more than 80 years. His grandfather’s portrait hung in the back of the room until the judge ordered it removed before trial.
Instead of the shirt and sport coat he wore during the six-week trial, Murdaugh, who made millions suing major corporations on behalf of people injured in accidents, arrived at court in a prison jumpsuit the day after he was convicted of two counts of murder.
The Colleton County jury deliberated less than three hours before finding Murdaugh guilty of killing his 22-year-old son with a shotgun and his 52-year-old wife with a shotgun.
Juror Craig Moyer told American broadcaster ABC News that when deliberations began, the jury immediately conducted a poll that returned nine guilty votes. It didn’t take long to convince the other three jurors to convict Murdaugh.
The juror agreed with prosecutors that the key piece of evidence was a video stored on his son’s cell phone for a year — videotaped minutes before the murders in the same kennels near where the bodies would be found.
The voices of all three Murdaughs can be heard on the video, even though Alex Murdaugh has insisted for 20 months that he hadn’t been in the kennel that night. When he took the stand in his own defense, the first thing he did was admit that he lied to investigators about being in the kennels, saying he was paranoid about law enforcement because he was an opioid addict on pills in his pocket on the night of the murders.
“A good liar. But not good enough,” Moyer said.
Prosecutors did not have the weapons used to kill the mother and son or other direct evidence such as confessions or blood spatter. But they had a mountain of circumstantial evidence, including the video of Alex Murdaugh standing at the scene of the murders five minutes before his wife and son stopped using their cell phones forever.
“Since an appeal is likely expected, I don’t expect any admissions,” Newton said Friday.