South Carolina Attorney Alex Murdaugh was found guilty of the murders of his wife and son

March 2 (Reuters) – A South Carolina jury on Thursday found Richard “Alex” Murdaugh guilty of the murders of his wife and son, convicting the once-influential lawyer of murder in a case that has drawn the nation’s attention for almost two years.

The 12-member jury found Murdaugh, 54, guilty on two counts of murdering his wife, Maggie, 52, and youngest son, Paul, 22, who died on the evening of July 7, 2021. He was also convicted on two related charges convicted of firearms.

Murdaugh remained impassive as the jury foreman read the verdict, which the panel reached after three hours of deliberation. He was then led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

His attorney immediately requested a trial, which the judge quickly denied.

“The evidence of guilt is overwhelming,” said South Carolina District Court Judge Clifton Newman.

Murdaugh, who was born into an influential legal family in an area west of Charleston, had pleaded not guilty, although he admitted in confessions that he lied about his alibi and a series of financial crimes, which reduced his credibility with the jury.

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Murdaugh faces 30 years of life imprisonment in each of the two counts of murder when he is convicted on Friday.

The case has drawn intense media coverage given the family’s immense political power in and around Colleton County, where the trial took place. For decades up until 2006, family members had been the leading prosecutor in the area, and Murdaugh was a well-known personal injury attorney in the state of the Deep South.

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Throughout the trial, prosecutors attempted to frame Murdaugh as a serial liar, arguing that only he had the means and opportunity to commit the murders. Prosecutors said he shot his wife and son to distract from a litany of financial crimes, including stealing millions of dollars from his legal partners and clients – money used to feed years of opioid addiction and an expensive lifestyle support.

Alex Murdaugh testifies at his murder trial in the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina, on February 23, 2023. Grace Beahm Alford/Pool via USA TODAY NETWORK via REUTERS

Among the state’s strongest pieces of evidence was Murdaugh’s admission on the witness stand last week that he lied about his whereabouts on the night of the murders and told investigators he was not in the kennel before the murders. Murdaugh changed his account after jurors listened to audio evidence that placed him at the scene minutes before the crime.

For their part, Murdaugh’s attorneys attempted to portray their client as a loving family man who, despite facing financial difficulties and suffering from an opioid addiction that led him to lying and stealing, would never harm his wife and child.

They put forward alternative theories, with Murdaugh testifying that he believed anyone upset about a fatal 2019 boating accident involving Paul was likely seeking revenge on his son.


Jim Griffin, one of the defense attorneys, described the state’s alleged motive as absurd, arguing that the killings would only have prompted closer scrutiny of allegations of Murdaugh’s financial misdeeds, not less.

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Griffin repeatedly stressed the high legal limit in criminal cases of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and underscored the challenge for prosecutors who base their cases on circumstantial evidence rather than direct evidence.

“If there is any reasonable reason for you to hesitate to write ‘guilty,’ then the law requires you to write ‘not guilty,'” he said.

In Thursday’s rebuttal, Assistant Attorney General John Meadors stressed that prosecutors don’t need to prove a motive, saying all the evidence pointed to Murdaugh – who he said was more self-conscious – than the killer.

“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 feel financially ashamed,” Meadors said.

Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Edited by Josie Kao, Jonathan Oatis, Leslie Adler and Cynthia Osterman

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