South Carolina judge sentences former lawyer to two consecutive life sentences for murder of wife and son.
A disgraced former lawyer who was convicted of killing his wife and son after a six-week trial that riveted the United States has been sentenced to two consecutive life sentences.
Throughout the trial, Alex Murdaugh had said he was not guilty in the June 7, 2021, shooting deaths at the family’s sprawling residential and farming compound in the US state of South Carolina.
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Judge Clifton Newton on Friday suggested 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.”
Before handing down the sentence, Newton said the murders qualified for the death penalty, but he did not “question at all” the prosecutors’ decision to not pursue that option.
Murdaugh maintained his innocence before sentencing.
“I respect this court, but I am innocent, and I would never under any circumstances hurt my wife, Maggie, and I would never under any circumstances hurt my son Paw-Paw,” Murdaugh said, using a nickname he used for his son Paul.
Murdaugh is part of a legal dynasty. He was sentenced in the same courtroom on the circuit where his father, grandfather and great-grandfather tried cases as elected prosecutors for more than 80 years. His grandfather’s portrait hung in the back of the room until the judge ordered it taken down for the trial.
Instead of the dress shirt and sport coat he wore through the six-week trial, Murdaugh, who made millions suing big companies on behalf of people injured in accidents, arrived at court in a jail jumpsuit the day after he was convicted of two counts of murder.
The Colleton County jury deliberated for less than three hours before finding Murdaugh guilty of killing his 22-year-old son with a shotgun and his 52-year-old wife with a rifle.
Juror Craig Moyer told US broadcaster ABC News that when deliberations began, the jury immediately took a poll that came back with nine guilty votes. It didn’t take long to persuade the other three jurors to convict Murdaugh.
The juror agreed with prosecutors that the key piece of evidence was a video locked on his son’s cellphone for a year – video shot minutes before the killings at the same kennels near where the bodies would be found.
The voices of all three Murdaughs can be heard on the video although Alex Murdaugh had insisted for 20 months that he hadn’t been at the kennels that night. When he took the stand in his own defence, the first thing he did was admit he had lied to investigators about being at the kennels, saying he was paranoid of law enforcement because he was an opioid addict with pills in his pocket the night of the killings.
“A good liar. But not good enough,” Moyer said.
Prosecutors did not have the weapons used to kill the mother and son or other direct evidence like confessions or blood spatter. But they had a mountain of circumstantial evidence, including the video putting Alex Murdaugh at the scene of the killings five minutes before his wife and son stopped using their cellphones forever.
“As appeals are probably expected, I would not expect a confession of any kind,” Newton said on Friday.