Alex Murdaugh guilty in murders of wife and son

Alex Murdaugh, the disgraced South Carolina lawyer accused of murdering his wife and son to gain pity and distract from financial crimes threatening to topple his reputation, was found guilty Thursday in their slayings.

After deliberating for three hours, the jury of seven men and five women convicted Murdaugh, 54, in the fatal shootings of Margaret, 52, and their youngest son, Paul, 22, in June 2021. He faces 30 years to life in prison without parole.

The jury also convicted him of two counts of possession of a weapon during a violent crime, which carry five more years in prison.

Murdaugh blinked repeatedly but was stone-faced as he stood in court as the guilty verdicts were read. Each juror was then asked if the verdicts were correct and said yes.

Sentencing was deferred until 9:30 a.m. Friday.

Lawyers for Murdaugh made a motion for a mistrial after the verdicts were read. The motion was denied by the judge, who said the verdict was a matter for the jury and there was enough evidence for it to find Murdaugh guilty.

“The evidence of guilt is overwhelming, and I deny the motion,” Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman said.

Newman thanked the jurors later and said their verdict was supported by the evidence.

“All of the evidence pointed to only one conclusion, that’s the conclusion that you all reached,” he said.

The relatively short deliberation period followed a lengthy trial that began in late January and included nearly six weeks of testimony from 75 witnesses, including Murdaugh.

During closing arguments earlier Thursday, the defense depicted Murdaugh, who was disbarred from practicing law last year in the wake of the charges, as a family man with a loving relationship with his wife and children.

Defense lawyer Jim Griffin stressed that the state had no direct evidence that he pulled the trigger before calling 911 on the evening of June 7, 2021, to say he found his wife and son’s bodies near kennels at their hunting estate in rural Colleton County.

Investigators had testified that Paul was struck twice by a shotgun, while Margaret was shot multiple times with an AR-style rifle. Neither weapon has been found, but agents said they matched the murder weapons using shell casings from family firearms.

The prosecution built a sprawling case based on circumstantial evidence to convince jurors that Murdaugh was guilty, using electronic data and video extracted from the victims’ cellphones to suggest that only he had the motive, means and opportunity to kill his wife and son.

According to prosecutors, Murdaugh had been swindling clients for years, and he used the money, in part, to feed an addiction to pain pills.

Murdaugh had also been under strain from a lawsuit involving Paul, who at the time of his death was facing trial on three felony counts of boating under the influence in connection with a 2019 boat crash that killed a teenage passenger.

During the state’s closing arguments Wednesday, lead prosecutor Creighton Waters said that Murdaugh had much to lose if his financial malfeasance was exposed but that the deaths of his wife and son promptly stopped the law firm’s investigation and stymied the boat crash case to his advantage.

One of the state’s key pieces of evidence was video extracted from Paul’s cellphone of the kennels in which three voices — belonging to Paul, Margaret and Murdaugh — could be heard talking about a dog in the minutes before 8:50 p.m.

Murdaugh repeatedly told investigators that he was napping and then had gone to visit his mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease, before returning home to find his wife and son dead.

In response to why his voice could be heard in the video, Murdaugh took the stand last week and admitted to lying about his location before the murders because of his drug addiction and general paranoia.

But Waters said during closing arguments that it defied belief that another killer or killers knew to go to the family’s estate at the exact time Murdaugh wasn’t there and use the family’s firearms and kill his wife and son.

After the verdicts, Waters said the conviction brings justice for Maggie and Paul Murdaugh, and he thanked the jurors.

“We had no doubt that if we had a chance to present our case in a court of law, that they would see through the one last con that Alex Murdaugh was trying to pull — and they did,” Waters said

The trial had attracted intense coverage for a case first classified as an unsolved double homicide, but that soon unraveled into wider allegations of financial fraud, a hired hitman plot and drug addiction, and revived inquiries into other curious deaths linked to the Murdaugh family.

Murdaugh’s defense team did not immediately comment about the verdict.

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