Alex Murdaugh has been found guilty of murdering his wife and son after a jury of seven men and five women spent less than three hours deliberating.
The disgraced legal scion, 54, showed no emotion on his face but was shaking as the unanimous verdict was read out at the Colleton County courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina, following six weeks of harrowing testimony.
His only surviving son Buster, 26, was stony-faced and put his head in his hands. Murdaugh turned to face his son and sister Lynn as he was cuffed and led away. Neither his younger brother John Marvin, who testified earlier this week, nor his elder sibling Randy were in court.
Murdaugh, whose family has wielded immense judicial power in the region for three generations, brutally shot dead his wife Maggie, 52, and younger son Paul, 22, at the family’s 1,800-acre hunting estate in Moselle on the night of June 7, 2021.
The disbarred attorney lied to cops about his alibi before making the sensational decision to take the stand where he changed his story to fit the damning evidence.
But the State convinced jurors with a video which proved he was at the scene just moments before he blasted Paul’s brains out with a shotgun and mercilessly turned an assault rifle on his wife of 27 years, shooting Maggie five times.
Murdaugh will return for sentencing at 9.30am Friday. He faces 30 years to life in prison after being convicted of two counts of murder and two weapons charges.
Prosecutor Creighton Waters was cheered by the public as he addressed a press conference outside the court, proclaiming: ‘Justice was done today.
‘It doesn’t matter who your family is, 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 and break the law and if you murder, then justice will be done in South Carolina.’
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said Maggie and Paul had been ‘brutally murdered … by someone that they loved and someone that they trusted.’
He paid tribute to his team for their work and said ‘we can’t bring them back but we can bring them justice.’
Murdaugh’s defense attorney and friend Jim Griffin, who earlier broke down as he implored jurors not to find his client guilty, said: ‘Obviously we’re disappointed but until he’s sentenced we will have no further comment.’
Judge Clifton Newman dismissed a defense move for a mistrial and thanked the jury for their finding. The judge said: ‘The circumstantial evidence, direct evidence, all of the evidence pointed to one conclusion, and that’s the conclusion that you all reached.’
Murdaugh, who wept throughout the trial as the jury were told in gruesome detail how his wife and son were brutally executed and shown harrowing images of the crime scene, gave a blank expression as the judge spoke to the court.
His eldest son Buster, who sat behind his father every day during the trial and testified for the defense, put his head in his hands.
As he was cuffed by sheriff’s deputies Murdaugh turned to face his son Buster and sister Lynn. He then shook hands with his attorney Dick Harpootlian, a Democratic State Senator, and was escorted out of the room.
Murdaugh was loaded into the back of the black prison van which brings him to and from court everyday and ferried to the local Colleton County jail where he has been remanded in custody throughout the trial.
Alex Murdaugh fiercely denied executing his wife and son when he sensationally took the stand to defend himself last week against his own lawyers’ advice.
He wept as he admitted to jurors that he had lied about being at the crime scene minutes before they were slain – but blamed his paranoia brought on a crippling opioid habit and a mistrust of the police.
Murdaugh said: ‘I would never intentionally do anything to hurt either of them. Ever. Ever,’ he sobbed. ‘I didn’t shoot my wife or son, ever.’
‘Oh what a tangled web we weave. Once I told a lie, and I told my family, I had to keep lying,’ he added.
But prosecutor Waters exploded Murdaugh’s ‘new story’ by playing bodycam footage from the local cop who was first on the scene in which he was seen already lying about the last time he saw Maggie and Paul.
Waters yesterday told jurors in his closing argument: ‘The pressures on this man were unbearable and they were all reaching a crescendo the day his wife and son were murdered by him.’
On the day of the killings, Murdaugh had been confronted over $792,000 that had gone ‘missing’ from a recent case. In the subsequent months it would be revealed that he had stolen more than $10m from clients and partners at his firm.
Three days after the killings he was due in court for a hearing in a lawsuit over his son’s drunken boat crash in which a teen girl had died two years earlier.
The family patriarch, Randolph III, who Murdaugh had continually turned to for massive six-figure loans and relied upon emotionally, was badly ill with cancer. He died three days after the murders.
Compounding this, prosecutors say Murdaugh’s opioid pill habit was spiraling and on the defendant’s own admission, ‘withdrawals would make him do anything.’
Waters told jurors: ‘Nobody knew who this man was. He avoided accountability his whole life, he had relied on his family name, he had a powerful family, he carried a badge and used that in authority, he lived a wealthy life – but now finally he was was facing complete ruin.
He added that the legal scion ‘is the kind of person for whom shame is an extraordinary provocation’ and faced with financial ruin which his ‘ego couldn’t stand … he became a family annihilator.’
He concluded the speech with the fervent plea: ‘This defendant has fooled everyone, everyone. Everyone who thought they were close to him he’s fooled them all and he fooled Maggie and Paul too and they paid for it with their lives. Don’t let him fool you too.’
In closing arguments earlier on Thursday, Murdaugh’s lawyer accused investigators of fabricating evidence.
He said the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), the state’s version of the FBI, failed to secure the crime scene and examine key evidence that could have exonerated Murdaugh, and instead focused on him due to scrutiny over his financial misdeeds.
‘That made him an easy, easy, easy target for SLED,’ Jim Griffin said, arguing Murdaugh could have been ruled out as a suspect. ‘SLED failed miserably in investigating this case.’
Murdaugh’s lawyers tried to paint their client as a loving family man who, while facing financial difficulties and suffering from an opioid addiction that led him to lie and steal, would never harm his wife and child.
They floated alternative theories, with Murdaugh testifying that he believed someone angry over a deadly 2019 boating accident involving Paul likely sought revenge on his son.
Griffin described the State’s alleged motive as preposterous, arguing the murders would only draw more scrutiny, not less, to the allegations of Murdaugh’s financial misdeeds.