Alex Murdaugh trial: Jury finds attorney guilty of murder of wife, son

WALTERBORO, S.C. — A South Carolina jury convicted disgraced attorney Alex Murdaugh on Thursday in the double murder of his wife and son in June 2021.

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The unanimous verdict of two counts of murder came after weeks of testimony and less than three hours after jurors began deliberations.

Murdaugh was also found guilty of two counts of possession of a weapon in the commission of a crime.

Update 8:11 p.m. EST March 2: Prosecutors lauded the verdict in a news conference about an hour after the verdict was read.

“We can’t bring them back but we can bring them justice,” Alan Wilson, South Carolina’s attorney general, told reporters. “Today’s verdict proved that no one, no matter who you are in society, is above the law.”

Prosecutor Creighton Waters said the trial was a long process but was pleased with the results.

“Justice was done today,” Waters said. “It doesn’t matter who your family is. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, or people think you have. It doesn’t matter what you think how prominent you are -- if you do wrong, if you break the law, if you murder -- then justice will be done in South Carolina.”

Original report: Murdaugh showed no emotion after hearing the verdict from a jury of seven men and five women. Judge Clifton Newman said he would defer sentencing to “a later date.” Both the prosecution and defense agreed to a sentencing hearing on Friday at 9:30 a.m. EST.

Murdaugh, 54, faces 30 years to life in prison without parole. The once-prominent lawyer also faces about 100 other charges ranging from theft to insurance fraud.

Margaret “Maggie” Murdaugh, 52, and Paul Murdaugh, 22, were killed near dog kennels with a shotgun on the family’s Colleton County estate on June 7, 2021. Alex Murdaugh was convicted of executing his son inside the feed room of the kennels before shooting his wife with a high-powered rifle, The State reported.

Jurors received the case around 3:40 p.m. EST after hearing final arguments from defense attorneys and prosecutors.

Jurors heard testimony from more than 75 witnesses and viewed nearly 800 pieces of evidence during the 28-day trial, The Associated Press reported.

After a poll of the jurors confirmed the unanimous verdict, Murdaugh’s defense team asked Newman to declare a mistrial, according to The State.

Newman refused, saying that “The evidence of guilt is overwhelming and I deny the motion.”

Prosecutors said Murdaugh killed his wife and son to gain sympathy as he coped with mounting pressures stemming from the family’s financial debt and a deadly 2019 boat crash that led to charges against Paul Murdaugh. In his closing statements, prosecutor Creighton Waters described Murdaugh as “a middle-aged man who is outwardly successful, who has a strong family legacy, who has a prominence in the community and has a reputation, but who is living a lie.”

During his trial, Murdaugh admitted to stealing millions of dollars from his clients to feed his longtime prescription pill addiction and support his family’s wealthy lifestyle. He also admitted to lying to investigators about his whereabouts on the day his wife and son were killed, a decision he blamed on paranoia caused by his addiction.

Jurors rejected Alex Murdaugh’s claim that he had left the crime scene minutes before the shootings, The New York Times reported. He made the argument while taking the stand after prosecutors played a video contradicting his claim, according to the newspaper.

The crucial, minute-long video recorded at the kennels captured Murdaugh’s voice in the background. It was taken by Paul Murdaugh in one of his last living moments, the Times reported.

Prosecutors portrayed Murdaugh as a skillful liar who worked to craft an alibi to shield himself from blame in Maggie and Paul’s deaths.

On Wednesday, Murdaugh told jurors, “Don’t let him fool you, too.”

Jim Griffin, one of Murdaugh’s attorneys, said during his closing argument that prosecutors quickly homed in on Murdaugh as the prime suspect and criticized authorities for not investigating the killings more fully. Griffin pointed to strands of hair that had been found in Maggie Murdaugh’s hands and had not apparently been tested.

“(Investigators) had decided that ‘unless we find someone else, it’s going to be Alex,’” he said.

The verdict was announced in the same courtroom where Murdaugh’s father, Randolph Murdaugh III, was the elected solicitor from 1986 to 2006, The State reported. His grandfather, Randolph “Buster” Murdaugh Jr., was the elected solicitor from 1940 to 1986, and his great-grandfather, the original Randolph Murdaugh, was solicitor from 1920 until he died in 1940.

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