Alex Murdaugh found guilty in South Carolina murder trial

Jury finds prominent lawyer guilty of 2021 shooting murders of wife and son

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A South Carolina jury on Thursday found Alex Murdaugh guilty of killing his wife and son, convicting the once-influential lawyer in a grisly and complex case that has gripped America's attention for nearly two years.

The 12-person jury declared Murdaugh, 54, guilty on two counts of murdering his wife Maggie, 52, and youngest son, Paul, 22, who were executed at close range near the dog kennels on their family estate on the evening of June 7, 2021.

Murdaugh, the scion of an influential legal family in an area west of Charleston, had pleaded not guilty, although he admitted to lying about his alibi and to financial crimes in confessions that dented his credibility with the jury.

With the guilty verdict, he faces a sentence of up to life in prison.

Earlier, his lawyer accused investigators of fabricating evidence and said their theory of why their client killed his wife and son made no sense, seeking to raise doubts with the jury in the high-profile murder trial.

In his closing argument, Jim Griffin said the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division failed to secure the crime scene and examine key evidence that could have exonerated Murdaugh, and instead focused on him because of his mounting drug and financial troubles.

“That made him an easy, easy, easy target for Sled,” Mr Griffin said, arguing that Murdaugh could have been ruled out as a suspect. “Sled failed miserably in investigating this case.”

The case has drawn intense media coverage given the family's immense political power in and around Colleton County, where the trial took place.

For decades until 2006, family members were the leading prosecutors in the area, and Murdaugh was a prominent personal injury lawyer in the state.

Throughout the month-long trial, prosecutors sought to portray him as a serial liar and said only he had the means and the opportunity to commit the murders.

They say he killed his wife and son to distract from financial crimes, including the theft of millions of dollars from his law partners and clients — money used to feed a years-long addiction to opioids and support an expensive lifestyle.

On rebuttal, Assistant Attorney General John Meadors said the prosecution did not need to prove motive but all the evidence pointed at Murdaugh, who cared about himself above everyone else, as the murderer.

“I don't know why he killed his wife and son," Mr Meadors said. "I don't have to say why. I think he did it to protect the one he loved the most, the one he really loved the most, so he could keep his lifestyle and not be embarrassed financially."

Murdaugh's lawyers tried to show their client as a loving family man who, while facing financial difficulties and suffering from an opioid addiction that led him to lie and steal, would never harm his wife and child.

Alternative theories were floated, with Murdaugh saying that he believed someone angry over a deadly 2019 boating accident involving Paul probably sought revenge on his son.

The area where the bodies of Paul Murdaugh and mother Maggie were found at the Moselle property. AP
Updated: March 03, 2023, 12:46 AM

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