In a case that has gripped the country, a judge sentenced Alex Murdaugh to life in prison for the killings of his wife and son. The conviction comes less than 24 hours after a jury found him guilty of the 2021 double murder. For a trial that lasted 28 days, the jury came to a quick conclusion; it took less than three hours for them to unanimously agree that Murdaugh is guilty of two counts of murder and two counts of using a weapon during the commission of a violent crime. It was reported in December 2022 that prosecutors would not seek the death penalty for the murder charges against him. Judge Clifton Newton suggested on Friday that Murdaugh’s opioid addiction may have made him “a monster” and that “the person standing before me was not the person who committed the crime, though it’s the same person.” Murdaugh, the disgraced lawyer who leaves behind a legal dynasty in the low country of South Carolina, maintains his innocence.
By The National Desk and WCIV Staff; March 3, 2023
COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (TND/WCIV) —
Alex Murdaugh was sentenced Friday to two consecutive life sentences after a jury found him guilty in the murder of his wife and son.
The disgraced former attorney was determined to be guilty on Thursday on all four charges: two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a violent crime. Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were killed in 2021 at the family’s former home in Colleton County, South Carolina.
Prosecutor Creighton Waters said none of the victims of the crime wanted to speak on behalf of the prosecution prior to the sentencing.
Murdaugh’s head was bowed as he was led out of the courtroom.
Newman said some autopsy photos were leaked when they were shown as exhibits in court, comparing the incident to the recent lawsuit Kobe Bryant’s wife made regarding her husband’s death in a helicopter crash and the photos released from it.
The judge also said he’s set to preside over the 99 other cases involving Murdaugh’s other alleged crimes, mostly financial-related.
Newman denied the defense’s motion for a mistrial, saying there “was sufficient evidence to find the defendant guilty if the evidence was believed by the jury.”
State prosecutors presented a largely circumstantial case that failed to produce a “smoking gun.” Much of the prosecution’s focus instead was on motive, showing how Murdaugh was facing imminent downfall from his life of wealth and prominence due to years of thefts.
Prosecutors also zeroed in on the repeated lies Murdaugh told investigators in the aftermath of the murders as to his whereabouts that night – specifically, whether he was with Maggie and Paul by the family’s dog kennels where they were murdered.
Murdaugh initially told investigators he wasn’t at the kennels in the time leading up to Maggie and Paul’s deaths, but a video from his late son’s cell phone proved Murdaugh was there within five minutes of when investigators believe Paul and Maggie Murdaugh were killed.
When he took the stand, Murdaugh admitted to lying about being at the kennels for 19 months leading up to the trial and said that a number of factors influenced him to be untruthful, including his distrust of SLED and paranoia tied to his alleged opiate addiction.
The defense argued that contrary to what the State presented, they believed that two shooters may have carried out the murders and that Murdaugh trying to avoid facing punishment for his admitted financial crimes was not a plausible motive for maliciously killing his wife and son.
The defense also alleged that had state investigators done a proper job of processing the scene and securing evidence, Alex would have been eliminated as a suspect long before the start of the trial.
Murdaugh has been in custody since October 2021 on charges unrelated to the slayings. In July 2022, a year and a month after the murders of Maggie and Paul, Murdaugh was officially indicted on two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.