Alex Murdaugh, the disgraced South Carolina lawyer found guilty of murdering his 22-year-old son Paul and his wife Maggie, has been sentenced to life in prison.
Murdaugh’s sentencing in Judge Clifton Newman’s court came just over 12 hours after the 54-year-old attorney pleaded guilty to two counts of murder in the June 2021 murders, as well as two counts of gun possession while committing a violent crime. crime.
Related: Violence, corruption, power: key moments in Alex Murdaugh’s trial
Jurors reached the guilty verdict after less than three hours of deliberation that concluded the six-week trial that captured the imagination of America – and the world – with its intricate web of murder, power and corruption. The town of Walterboro has turned into a media circus for the duration of the trial.
In dramatic scenes fitting the close of a high-drama trial, Newman spoke directly to Murdaugh, telling him he had no doubt that the ghosts of the murdered victims would visit him every night.
“You have to see Paul and Maggie at night when you’re trying to sleep.” I’m sure they’ll come to see you,” he said.
Murdaugh wore a convict’s clothes and said he did. But he also repeated several times his claims that he was wrongly convicted of the murders.
“I’m innocent,” he said.
However, Newman spoke of Murdaugh’s ability to lie and continue to lie about the details of the case.
“When Will It End?” said the judge.
The judge also referred to Murdaugh’s addiction to opioids, which the defense tried to use as an explanation for their client’s behavior. Newman—who also spoke of the many times he’d encountered Murdaugh as an attorney in the South Carolina court system—appeared to consider the impact of heavy drug abuse as a possible factor in the murders.
‘Maybe it wasn’t you [who killed them]. It could be the monster you’ve become,” he said.
Prosecutors in South Carolina argued in court that Murdaugh murdered his wife and son on the family estate in June 2021 as part of a plan to divert attention from a series of financial scandals, which came to light as part of a civil lawsuit over the death of 19-year-old Mallory Beach in a boating accident involving his son Paul.
Evidence presented to jurors showed that Murdaugh stole millions of dollars from clients and the family law firm, crimes he admitted in court.
After the murders, Murdaugh portrayed the murders as an act of retaliation by unknown assassins. At trial, his defense team referred to “vigilantes” and pointed to a lack of physical evidence to tie Murdaugh to the crimes.
But jurors unanimously rejected the defense’s claims that evidence against Murdaugh had been fabricated and that it would have taken two gunmen to commit the murders.
The defense’s attempt to establish “reasonable doubt” was heavily damaged after cell phone video evidence showed that Murdaugh had been at the crime scene minutes before the murders were committed.
Jurors instead accepted a prosecution argument that relied largely on circumstantial evidence, including phone and vehicle tracking systems that indicated Murdaugh’s movements on the night of the murders.
After the verdict was handed down Thursday evening, Chief Prosecutor Creighton Waters said justice had been done.
“It doesn’t matter who your family is,” Waters said. “It doesn’t matter how much money you have or people think you have. It doesn’t matter… how prominent you are. If you do wrong, if you break the law, if you kill, justice will be served in South Carolina.”
In court, just before sentencing, Waters didn’t pull a fist.
“The depravity, callousness and brutality of these crimes are astonishing,” he said.