Richard “Alex” Murdaugh, a well-known South Carolina lawyer, was found guilty of the murders of his wife and son.
On Thursday, March 2, a jury convicted the once-powerful attorney of murder in a case that has captivated America’s attention for nearly two years.
Murdaugh, 54, was found guilty on two counts of murdering his wife Maggie, 52, and their youngest son, Paul, 22, on the evening of June 7, 2021, near the dog kennels on their family estate. He was also convicted of two firearms-related offenses.
Murdaugh remained emotionless as the jury foreperson read the verdict, which came after three hours of deliberation. He was then escorted out of the courtroom with his hands cuffed.
Murdaugh, from an influential legal family, had pled not guilty, yet he acknowledged to lying about his alibi and committed a slew of financial crimes in confessions that undermined his credibility with the jury.
Murdaugh now faces 30 years to life in jail for each of the two counts of murder when he is sentenced on Friday.
With the family’s enormous political power in and around Colleton County, where the trial was held, the matter has received extensive media coverage. Until 2006, family members worked as the area’s top prosecutors, and Murdaugh was a well-known personal injury attorney in the Deep South state.
Prosecutors painted Murdaugh as a chronic liar throughout the trial, claiming that only he had the resources and opportunity to conduct the killings. Authorities said he shot his wife and son to distract from his financial crimes, which included stealing millions of dollars from his law partners and clients – money that he used to feed a years-long opiate addiction and fund an affluent lifestyle.
Murdaugh’s admission from the stand last week that he lied about his whereabouts on the night of the killings, saying police he wasn’t at the dog kennels before the murders, was among the state’s best evidence against the discredited lawyer. Murdaugh changed his story when the jury heard audio evidence that placed him to the crime scene minutes before the deaths.
“It doesn’t matter who your family is or how much money you have,” lead prosecutor Creighton Waters said following the verdict. “If you do wrong, breach the law, or murder, justice will be served in South Carolina.”
Murdaugh’s attorneys attempted to portray their client as a wonderful family guy who, despite financial struggles and an opiate addiction that caused him to lie and steal, would never harm his wife or child.
They discussed several ideas, with Murdaugh testifying that he suspected someone enraged over a fatal boating accident involving Paul in 2019 likely sought revenge on his son.
During his final statement on Thursday, one of the defense lawyers, Jim Griffin, called the state’s stated motive “preposterous,” suggesting that the murders would have simply drawn more attention to Murdaugh’s financial wrongdoing.
Griffin also accused detectives of manufacturing evidence and frequently highlighted that the state must establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, emphasizing the difficulty that prosecutors face because their case is based entirely on circumstantial rather than direct evidence.
Despite Murdaugh’s powerful defense, jurors did not trust his story. Prosecutors emphasized Murdaugh’s reliability, returning to his admission that he lied about something as important as where he was when his wife and kid were killed.
Judge Newman told the jurors they had reached the correct decision.
“All of the evidence — circumstantial evidence, direct evidence — all of the evidence pointed to just one conclusion, and that’s the conclusion you all reached,” he added.