After a 27-day trial, the disgraced and now-infamous South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh was found guilty Thursday of the 2021 killings of his wife and son.
The verdicts on two charges of first-degree murder were reached by a jury after about three hours of deliberation. It came after closing arguments and testimony from 70 witnesses over more than three weeks.
The high-profile double murder was covered in Netflix’s 2023 docuseries “Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal” and HBO Max’s 2022 docuseries “Low Country: The Murdaugh Dynasty.”
Murdaugh, 54, was also found guilty on two weapons charges in the fatal shootings of his son Paul and wife, Margaret “Maggie” Murdaugh, at a family property in Islandton, South Carolina, in June 2021.
Murdaugh stood emotionless and stone-faced as the verdict was read and later as the judge listed the sentencing guidelines, which included 30 years to life in prison for each murder charge. Sentencing will begin Friday, with the decision in the hands of South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman.
“The defendant is remanded to the custody of the Colleton County Sheriff’s Department,” Newman said. “And he may be taken away.”
The judge then thanked the jurors for “evaluating the evidence and coming to a proper conclusion.”
“The verdict you have reached is supported by the evidence” Newman said, before dismissing them, though he said they were welcome to return for the sentencing phase — but not required to.
Lead prosecutor Creighton Waters argued that Murdaugh fit the profile of a “family annihilator” and that he was the one who shot and killed his 52-year-old wife Maggie and youngest son Paul, 22, on June 7, 2021, at the family’s estate in Colleton County, South Carolina.
Defense attorney Griffin alleged that law enforcement was too hasty in zeroing in on Murdaugh as the killer, saying that his client’s self-confessed opiate addiction made him “an easy target for SLED (South Carolina Law Enforcement Division)… They started fabricating evidence against Alex.”
Griffin also played a cellphone video taken by Paul in which he was talking to his mother and father about dogs around 8:44 p.m., just minutes before prosecutors say the shooting started. “Four minutes later, the state would have you believe that Alex Murdaugh up and blew his son’s brains out,” Griffin argued.
In a win for the prosecution, Newman earlier ruled that the jury could hear evidence of Murdaugh’s financial difficulties, and “the apparent desperation” that may have motivated the defendant to murder his wife and son.
Prosecutor Waters cited cellphone data to place Murdaugh at the crime scene and that the former attorney shot his son Paul first. “She heard that shot and was running to her baby when she got mowed down by the only person that we have conclusive proof was at that scene just minutes before,” Waters told the jury on Wednesday.
Murdaugh admitted he had been lying to his family “for years” and did not dispute Waters’ statement that he stole $3.7 million in 2019. Waters argued that Murdaugh used the murders to buy time as his financial crimes were about to come to light.
Before defense attorney Jim Griffin began his closing argument, Judge Newman removed one of the jurors for talking about the case outside the courtroom. The juror, who was replaced with an alternate, was the fifth jury member who had to be replaced during the six-week trial, which was held at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro.