Alex Murdaugh has been found guilty of murdering his wife and son after jurors spent less than three hours deliberating.
The disgraced legal scion, 54, shook as he stood while the verdict was read out at the Colleton County courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina, following six weeks of harrowing testimony.
His surviving son Buster appeared stony-faced and sat with his hand covering his mouth beside his girlfriend Brooklynn White he looked down at the ground.
Murdaugh, 54, brutally shot dead his wife Maggie, 52, and son Paul, 22, at the family’s sprawling hunting estate in Moselle, South Carolina, on the night of June 7, 2021.
The disbarred attorney lied to cops about his whereabouts that night before making the stunning decision to take the stand last week, claiming his opioid addiction had made him paranoid.
But the State convinced jurors he killed the pair to distract from the millions he had stolen from his law firm and a looming lawsuit over Paul’s drunken boat wreck which threatened to ruin him financially.
He is facing 30 years to life in prison after being convicted of two counts of murder and two weapons charges.
The disgraced legal scion, 54, shook as he stood while the verdict was read out at the Colleton County courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina, following six weeks of harrowing testimony
Murdaugh arrives at the courthouse Thursday with his jacket draped over his cuffs. His defense are laying out their closing argument
Buster, Paul, Maggie and Alex Murdaugh at Lake Kiwi in May 2021 to celebrate the birth of Maggie’s niece’s child
Prosecutor Creighton Waters yesterday told jurors closing argument: ‘The pressures on this man were unbearable and they were all reaching a crescendo the day his wife and son were murdered by him.’
On the day of the killings he had been confronted over $792,000 that had gone ‘missing’ from a recent case. In the subsequent months it would be revealed that he had stolen more than $10m from clients and partners at his firm.
Three days after the killings he was due in court for a hearing in a lawsuit over his son’s drunken boat crash in which a teen girl had died two years earlier.
The family patriarch, Randolph III, who Murdaugh had continually turned to for massive six-figure loans and relied upon emotionally, was badly ill with cancer. He died three days after the murders.
Compounding this, prosecutors say Murdaugh’s opioid pill habit was spiraling and on the defendant’s own admission, ‘withdrawals would make him do anything.’
‘Nobody knew who this man was,’ Waters told the court.
He concluded the speech with the fervent plea: ‘This defendant has fooled everyone, everyone. Everyone who thought they were close to him he’s fooled them all and he fooled Maggie and Paul too and they paid for it with their lives. Don’t let him fool you too.’
In closing arguments earlier on Thursday, Murdaugh’s lawyer accused investigators of fabricating evidence. He said the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), the state’s version of the FBI, failed to secure the crime scene and examine key evidence that could have exonerated Murdaugh, and instead focused on him due to scrutiny over his financial misdeeds.
“That made him an easy, easy, easy target for SLED,” Jim Griffin said, arguing Murdaugh could have been ruled out as a suspect. “SLED failed miserably in investigating this case.”
Murdaugh, the 54-year-old scion of an influential legal family in an area west of Charleston, has been charged with fatally shooting his wife Maggie, 52, and youngest son, Paul, 22, at dog kennels on their estate on the night of June 7, 2021.
He faces 30 years to life in prison if found guilty by the jury, which is set to begin deliberations later on Thursday.
The case has drawn intense media coverage given the family’s immense political power in and around Colleton County, where the trial is taking place. For decades until 2006, family members served as the leading prosecutor in the area, and Murdaugh was a prominent personal injury attorney in the Deep South state.
Throughout the trial, prosecutors have sought to portray him as a serial liar and argued only he had the means and the opportunity to commit the murders. They say he gunned down his wife and son to distract from a litany of financial crimes, including the theft of millions of dollars from his law partners and clients – money used to feed a years-long addiction to opioids and support an expensive lifestyle.
On rebuttal on Thursday, Assistant Attorney General John Meadors stressed the prosecution didn’t need to prove motive but said all the evidence pointed at Murdaugh – who, he said, cared about himself above everyone else – as the murderer.
“I don’t know why he killed his wife and son. I don’t have to say why. I think he did it to protect the one he loved the most, the one he really loved the most so he could keep his lifestyle and not be embarrassed financially,” Meadors said.
For their part, Murdaugh’s lawyers have tried to paint their client as a loving family man who, while facing financial difficulties and suffering from an opioid addiction that led him to lie and steal, would never harm his wife and child.
They have floated alternative theories, with Murdaugh testifying that he believed someone angry over a deadly 2019 boating accident involving Paul likely sought revenge on his son.
Griffin described the state’s alleged motive as preposterous, arguing the murders would only draw more scrutiny, not less, to the allegations of Murdaugh’s financial misdeeds.
Buster Murdaugh, his girlfriend Brooklynn White and Alex’s sister Lynn
Buster Murdaugh, his girlfriend Brooklynn White and Alex’s sister Lynn arrive at the court Thursday
Griffin repeatedly highlighted the high legal bar in criminal cases of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, underscoring the challenge for prosecutors who have built their case on circumstantial rather than direct evidence.
“If there’s any reasonable cause for you to hesitate to write ‘guilty,’ then the law requires you to write ‘not guilty,'” he said.
Griffin also outlined a handful of examples where he alleges the state fabricated evidence. They included the claim that Murdaugh had high-velocity blood spatter on his shirt, an assertion contradicted by testing by SLED.
Among the state’s strongest evidence is Murdaugh’s admission from the stand last week that he’d lied about his whereabouts on the night of the killings, telling investigators he wasn’t at the dog kennels before the murders. Murdaugh changed his account after the jury listened to audio evidence placing him at the crime scene minutes before it occurred.