Alex Murdaugh, the fourth-generation inheritor to a strong Lowcountry authorized, regulation enforcement and political household, was found guilty Thursday of murdering his spouse and son in a case that introduced the glare of nationwide and worldwide media consideration to a long-secluded however corrupt nook of Lowcountry South Carolina.
A jury of seven males and 5 girls took lower than three hours over days earlier than unanimously discovering Murdaugh, 54, guilty of executing his son Paul, 22, with a shotgun contained in the feed room on the canine kennels earlier than gunning down his spouse, Maggie, 52, with a high-powered rifle on June 7, 2021, on the household 1,770-acre rural Colleton County property, referred to as Moselle.
The decision was introduced in the identical courtroom the place Murdaugh’s father, Randolph Murdaugh III, was the elected solicitor, or legal prosecutor, from 1986 to 2006, and his grandfather, Randolph “Buster” Murdaugh Jr., the elected solicitor from 1940 to 1986, introduced instances towards 1000’s of the county’s accused criminals over time. And Murdaugh’s great-grandfather, the unique Randolph Murdaugh, was solicitor from 1920 till his dying in 1940.
For six weeks, lead prosecutor Creighton Waters pulled collectively a case with one main hurdle: no direct proof.
Within the case introduced towards Murdaugh, the S.C. Lawyer Common’s Workplace had no direct proof, corresponding to fingerprints or DNA, that will have allowed the state to conclusively show Murdaugh’s guilt. Even the weapons used to kill Paul and Maggie have been lacking — hidden or destroyed by Murdaugh, prosecutors contended.
To beat that hurdle, prosecutors launched a whole bunch of items of proof, starting from police interrogation movies, gunshot residue checks, automotive and cellphone knowledge and — most significantly — a cellphone video taken from Paul’s telephone that confirmed Murdaugh on the canine kennels simply earlier than his spouse and son have been murdered.
To determine an alibi that he was some place else when the killings passed off, Murdaugh rapidly drove to his ailing mom’s home in a close-by unincorporated group, Almeda, the place he visited with a caregiver and lay on his mom’s mattress for 20 minutes as a sport present performed on the tv, prosecutors contended. Then he drove again to Moselle the place he pretended to find the our bodies and referred to as 911, prosecutors advised the jury.
All this digital knowledge shredded Murdaugh’s alibi of being some place else on the time of the killings, prosecutors contended. After almost three hours of deliberation on Thursday, the jury agreed.
An particularly troublesome impediment for prosecutors was displaying the jury that Murdaugh, a then-respected household man with generational ties to regulation enforcement and the state’s authorized group, a person who quite a few witnesses testified devoutly beloved his spouse and son, would go on a sudden rampage and kill his spouse and son.
To elucidate Murdaugh had a motive for the killings, Waters launched a principle referred to as “household annihilation,” which says that an outwardly profitable one that has lived a hidden life and all of a sudden faces publicity, may all of a sudden kill these closest to him.
To show this principle, Waters throughout the trial launched some 9 witnesses, who testified that Murdaugh for years had lived a secret life of fraud, stealing from mates, household, colleagues and his regulation agency, bilking them of hundreds of thousands. Waters additionally confirmed that Murdaugh, even on the morning of the killings, was on the verge of being uncovered as a debt-ridden legal as an alternative of a affluent revered lawyer.
On the coronary heart of the widespread media curiosity in the most recent era Murdaugh was a long-running “whodunit” thriller that rapidly attracted nationwide and worldwide consideration as a result of of the brutality of the Maggie and Paul’s execution-style killings, the prominence of the victims’ household and the seeming helplessness of the S.C. Regulation Enforcement Division to establish even one suspect for greater than a yr or advance a principle of what had occurred.
For 14 months — till Murdaugh’s indictment on homicide prices in July 2022 — neither SLED officers nor prosecutors from the S.C. Lawyer Common’s workplace would touch upon proof in the case or regulation enforcement’s extremely publicized failure to make an arrest.
The murders had taken place at evening, the crime scene had been overrun by Murdaugh’s family and friends till it was sealed off and there have been no witnesses besides the household’s canines who barked at investigators from their cages. The state was by no means in a position to produce the homicide weapons — a shotgun and a .300 Blackout assault-type rifle.
Going through life in jail with out parole, Murdaugh has seen witness after witness testify how he has stained the identify of his household that has been woven into the material of the 14th Judicial Circuit for greater than a century. Right now “Murdaugh” has change into shorthand for wickedness and the agency the household based in 1910 was dissolved and reformed, with out the Murdaugh identify.
In a transfer reportedly opposed by his protection crew, Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin, Murdaugh took to the stand for two days.
In testimony that was in flip tearful, defiant and litigious, the disbarred legal professional denied killing his spouse and son.
However in 5 hours of cross examination by lead prosecutor Creighton Waters, Murdaugh offered a stunning series of admissions. He confessed, for the primary time, to mendacity about his alibi and to a decade’s worth of thefts from his clients and his law firm, which he stated was pushed by a have to fund a $50,000 per week habit to prescription painkillers.
Even earlier than he took the stand, Murdaugh’s protection crew had little room to maneuver.
Choose Clifton Newman, who oversaw the trial, granted the prosecution’s want record of motions.
He allowed them to introduce a landslide of witnesses who testified about Murdaugh’s monetary crimes, main Harpootlian to protest that it was extra of a “Madoff trial than a homicide trial.” Bernie Madoff was imprisoned for orchestrating a $64.8 billion Ponzi scheme, the most important in historical past.
Whereas not required to show motive, Waters repeatedly accused Murdaugh of being a “household annhilator,” pushed to commit a biblical act of destruction when the facade of his profitable life started to crack.
Ballistics consultants additionally matched a household gun to the weapon that killed Maggie and the state used household’s telephones and knowledge from Murdaugh’s automotive to , casting doubt on the protection’s inconceivable declare that Murdaugh missed the killings by mere minutes.
Many of the witnesses have been drawn from the internal circle of the Murdaughs’ shut knit and clannish world, amongst them Murdaugh’s surviving son, 26-year-old Buster, who testified in his father’s protection.
Their testimony threw again the curtain on an insular world of privilege and energy among the many swamps of the Lowcountry.
For the reason that allegedly attributable to Paul, the household has gained unwelcome worldwide prominence by podcasts, documentaries and a zealous group of on-line sleuths.
In court docket, the 6-foot-four inch tall Murdaugh typically appeared gaunt, his as soon as pink hair turned virtually white. He continuously rocked forwards and backwards and overtly wept throughout testimony.
It was arduous to attach the person on the protection desk with the picture of well-fed, prosperous contentment who beamed out from household footage which were featured closely in almost 4 years of protection of the case.
The decision is a vindication for the South Carolina Regulation Enforcement Division and the Lawyer Common’s workplace who performed maybe the state’s highest-profile regulation enforcement investigation and prosecution in a era amidst a whirlwind of scrutiny and criticism.
It was additionally a private check for South Carolina Lawyer Common Alan Wilson, whose workplace hardly ever prosecutes murders and who sat on the prosecution’s desk all through the trial and led direct examination of the state’s closing witness.
Wilson is the inheritor to his personal South Carolina legacy — his father is U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson – and is rumored to be contemplating a run for increased workplace.
The case was transferred to his workplace after 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone recused himself on Aug. 11, 2021.
Stone occupied the identical workplace that had been held by Murdaugh’s father, grandfather and nice grandfather. Murdaugh himself held the nebulously outlined position of “volunteer solicitor,” and continuously displayed the badge in his automotive’s cup holder whereas sustaining a seven determine a yr follow on the Murdaugh regulation agency.
This can be a growing story. Test again for updates.