One of the most sensational trials of 2023 came to an abrupt end Thursday evening as jurors needed just three hours of deliberation following a six-week-long trial to find South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh guilty of the murder of his wife and son.
Murdaugh was convicted on two murder charges, as well as possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime. At sentencing, he faces up to life in prison.
Prosecutors in the case relied heavily on motive and technology to place the disbarred former legal giant. Murdaugh was an admitted drug addict who swindled clients out of more than $9 million and was facing what Fox News called a “financial reckoning.”
He was also placed at the scene of the crime by cell phone pings just moments before 9-1-1 calls were placed, adding to a timeline that jurors found convincing enough to put him in a position to both carry out the slayings and then self-report them.
Murdaugh was accused of using a shotgun to kill his young son, just 22, at dog kennels on the family’s property and later a rifle to execute his wife.
Fox News wrote that his alibi for being at the crime scene was one of simple curiosity after he didn’t see his now-deceased family members at home.
For months, Murdaugh repeatedly told investigators, friends, and his own family that he did not go to the dog kennels the night of the slayings. He claimed, instead, that he was napping at the main house perched on a hill then left to visit his mother in nearby Almeda at 9:07 p.m.
When he returned, he didn’t find them at the main house, so he drove to the kennels, where he said he came upon their mutilated bodies about 30 feet apart, checked their pulses, and called 911.
Most problematic in that recounting, as prosecutors argued, was that cell phone video retrieved from his own phone showed him pulling up to the murder scene just minutes before their recorded deaths at 8:50 pm – contradictory to his story. There was then the fact that he dialed 9-1-1 less than 20 seconds after showing up at the kennels.
“Nineteen seconds. Is that enough time for a surprised human being to come across that scene, process what they are seeing, get out of the car, go over there, check both their bodies then call 911?” the prosecution asked jurors during its closing arguments, before concluding, “The reason why it’s so quick is because he knew exactly what scene he was going to find.”
Building off the established facts of his financial troubles, the prosecution connected the con game he played by stealing millions from clients to the way he lied to and about his family.
“This is a man who made his trade on lying. He lied about the most important facts in the case and effortlessly and easily pivoted to a new lie when confronted by something he wasn’t prepared for,” they argued in rebuttal to the testimony offered by Murdaugh. “He fooled Maggie and Paul, too, and they paid for it with their lives. Don’t let him fool you, too.”
Fox reported that Murdaugh “looked shattered” when the verdicts were read and that his surviving son in the gallery stared in “disbelief.” His attorneys stated they were disappointed in the verdict but did not have much else to add until sentencing. His legal team asked that the family be left alone so as not to compound the tragedies they have already faced.
“On behalf of Alex, on behalf of Buster, on behalf of Maggie and on behalf of my friend, Paul, I respectfully request that you do not compound a family tragedy with another. Thank you,” said Griffin, as his voice cracked with emotion.
Featured image: Screen shot from embedded YouTube video, CBS.
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