Former South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh was found guilty on Thursday of killing his wife and adult son in a 2021 double murder, following a trial that lasted more than five weeks and has captivated the country given Murdaugh’s background.
South Carolina jurors deliberated for less than four hours on Thursday before delivering their verdict.
Murdaugh had virtually no reaction when the guilty verdicts against him were read aloud in the courtroom.
Murdaugh pleaded not guilty to the charges, but now faces 30 years to life in prison without parole with the conviction.
Prosecutors have successfully argued that Murdaugh murdered his wife, Maggie, and 22-year-old son, Paul, on his 1,700-acre rural estate in South Carolina in June 2021, in an unsuccessful attempt to cover up a years-long scheme to steal money from his clients and his law firm. The murder charges, along with dozens of separate financial crime charges, devastated the reputation of Murdaugh, the scion of a prominent local family with a personal injury law firm and close ties to the office of the local district attorney. Murdaugh said he found his wife and son dead in the kennel at his estate, and later told investigators he was visiting his mother at the time they were killed and only found their bodies. until later that night. Taking the stand at his trial, however, he confessed he lied about his whereabouts, admitting he had been at the kennel, but claiming he had entered before they were killed. Murdaugh’s attorney blamed his lies on his addiction to painkillers: “He lied because that’s what drug addicts do,” his attorney said. Video taken on his cellphone with the voices of Maggie and Paul playing in the background became key evidence for prosecutors, who used the video to show Murdaugh had been in the kennels minutes before he was killed .
Defense attorneys representing Murdaugh argued throughout the trial that prosecutors relied on shoddy investigative work by state law enforcement who failed to take samples from DNA and had built a case based on “theories and speculation” but lacked physical evidence.
Murdaugh was also charged with approximately 100 other charges related to either the deaths or his alleged schemes to steal customers’ money and hide it in a fake bank account. Two of the charges relate to insurance fraud, after prosecutors said he hired a hitman to kill him following the murders, but survived being shot in the head in September 2021 in an apparent plot to let his surviving son, Buster Murdaugh, cash in on $10 million in life insurance.
Before he was killed, Paul Murdaugh was facing trial on three counts related to a 2019 boating accident that killed a 19-year-old Mallory Beach passenger along the Beaufort River in South Carolina . He was charged with driving the boat while under the influence, which prosecutors say led to the crash that killed Beach. Criminal charges were dropped after his death, but Beach’s family hit a settlement with the Murdaugh family in January in a civil matter related to the death.
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