US lawyer Murdaugh sentenced to life without parole for killing wife and son

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A judge has sentenced South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh to life without parole after he was convicted of murdering his wife and son.

The Colleton County jury deliberated for less than three hours on Thursday before finding Murdaugh guilty of shooting dead his 22-year-old son, Paul, with a shotgun and his 52-year-old wife, Maggie, with a rifle on June 7 2021.

The lawyer maintained his innocence when addressing the judge before sentencing.

“I would never hurt my wife Maggie and I would never hurt my son Paul,” he said.

Prosecutor Creighton Waters said none of the victims of the crime – members of Murdaugh’s family and the parents and relatives of his wife – wished to speak on behalf of the prosecution before sentencing.

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Alex Murdaugh is brought into the courtroom during his murder trial (Andrew J. Whitaker/The Post And Courier via AP)

He learned his fate in the same courtroom on the circuit that his father, grandfather and great-grandfather tried cases as the elected prosecutor for more than 80 years.

His grandfather’s portrait hung in the back of the room until the judge ordered it taken down for the trial.

Instead of the smart clothes he wore through the six-week trial, the attorney who made millions suing big companies on behalf of people injured in car crashes arrived at court in a jail jumpsuit the day after he was convicted of two counts of murder.

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Buster Murdaugh, the son of Alex Murdaugh, listens as the verdict is read at the Colleton County Courthouse (Joshua Boucher/The State via AP, Pool)

The lawyer admitted stealing millions of dollars from the family firm and clients, saying he needed the money to fund his drug habit.

Before he was charged with murder, Murdaugh was in jail awaiting trial on about 100 other charges ranging from insurance fraud to tax evasion.

The Murdaughs dominated the legal scene in neighbouring Hampton County for a century. Another brother remains in the large law firm the family founded a century ago.

Murdaugh’s surviving son Buster testified for the defence and was behind him in the courtroom for every day of the trial.

Juror Craig Moyer told ABC News that when deliberations began, the jury immediately took a poll that came back with nine guilty votes. It did not take long to convince the other three.

The juror agreed with prosecutors that the key piece of evidence was a video locked on his son’s mobile phone for a year — video shot minutes before the killings at the same kennels near where the bodies would be found.

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A woman holds up a sign as Alex Murdaugh walks into the Colleton County Courthouse for sentencing (Joshua Boucher/The State via AP, Pool)

When he gave evidence in his own defence, the first thing he did was admit he had lied to investigators about being at the kennels, saying he was paranoid of law enforcement because he was addicted to opioids and had pills in his pocket the night of the killings.

“A good liar. But not good enough,” Mr Moyer said.

Prosecutors did not have the weapons used to kill the Murdaughs or other direct evidence like confessions or blood spatter.

But they had a mountain of circumstantial evidence, including the video putting Murdaugh at the scene of the killings five minutes before his wife and son stopped using their mobile phones forever.

When he gave evidence last week, Murdaugh appeared to cry as he denied again and again that he killed his wife. But Mr Moyer said he saw through yet another lie.

“He never cried. All he did was blow snot,” Mr Moyer said. “No tears. I saw his eyes. I was this close to him.”

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