Alex Murdaugh, the disgraced South Carolina attorney found guilty in the murders of 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 little more than 12 hours after the 54-year-old disbarred lawyer was found guilty on two counts of murder in the June 2021 killings, as well as two counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.
Jurors reached the guilty verdict after less than three hours of deliberation that capped the six-week trial that has captured the imagination of America – and the world – with its intricate web of murder, power and corruption. The small town of Walterboro has been turned into a media circus for the trial’s duration.
In dramatic scenes fitting for the conclusion of a trial of high drama, Newman spoke directly to Murdaugh, and told him he had no doubt that the spirits of the murdered victims would visit him every night.
“You have to see Paul and Maggie at night-time when you are attempting to go to sleep. I am sure they come and visit you,” he said.
Wearing convict’s clothing, Murdaugh said they did. But he also repeated several times his claims of being wrongfully convicted of the killings.
“I am innocent,” he said.
Newman, however, spoke of Murdaugh’s ability to lie and keep lying about the details of the case.
“When will it end?” the judge said.
The judge also referenced Murdaugh’s addiction to opioids, which the defense sought to use as an explanation for their client’s behavior. Newman – who also spoke about the many times he had encountered Murdaugh as a lawyer in the South Carolina courts system – appeared to offer the impact of intensive drug abuse as a potential factor in the killings.
“It might not have been you [who killed them]. It might have been the monster you’ve become,” he said.
Prosecutors in South Carolina argued in court that Murdaugh killed his wife and son at the family’s country estate in June 2021 as part of scheme to deflect 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 had stolen millions of dollars from clients and the family law firm, crimes that he admitted to in court testimony.
After the murders, Murdaugh portrayed the killings as an act of retribution by unknown assassins. During the 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 defense claims that evidence against Murdaugh had been fabricated, and that it would have taken two shooters to carry out the killings.
The defense’s effort to establish “reasonable doubt” was badly damaged after cellphone video evidence showed Murdaugh had been at the crime scene minutes before the murders were committed.
Jurors instead accepted a prosecution argument that largely relied on circumstantial evidence, including phone and vehicle tracking systems indicating Murdaugh’s movements the night of the killings.
After the verdict was handed down on Thursday night, the lead prosecutor, Creighton Waters, said that justice had been served.
“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 murder, then justice will be done in South Carolina.”
In court, just before sentencing, Waters pulled no punches.
“The depravity, the callousness, the ruthlessness of these crimes are stunning,” he said.