Alex Murdaugh, a disbarred attorney, was found guilty by a jury of killing his wife and son, bringing to an end a double-murder case that had gripped this small, rural village and occasionally the entire country. According to court records and testimony, on a rainy night in June 2021 at the family hunting estate known as Moselle, Mr. Murdaugh is alleged to have fatally shot his wife, Maggie Murdaugh, and son, Paul.
James Griffin, the defense counsel, stated in the opening of his closing remarks that the state had given plenty of grounds for reasonable doubt. The defense team has claimed that the state has not offered concrete proof that Mr. Murdaugh killed his kid and wife.
You’re not being asked to express your opinion in this trial, Mr. Griffin said later. “Frankly, I would not be shocked if some of you thought: ‘Oh good, they got him’ when you read in the media that Alex Murdaugh was charged with the murder of his wife and kid,” he said on Thursday.
The law requires you to write “not guilty” if the evidence the state has presented makes you hesitant, Mr. Griffin added.
Mr. Griffin stressed that neither the shotgun used to kill Paul nor the AR-15-style rifle used to kill Maggie were discovered by state investigators.
Investigators from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, or SLED, according to Mr. Griffin, did not seriously explore any suspects besides Mr. Murdaugh and even claimed there was no danger to the public hours after the killings. Additionally, he said that the investigation was poorly done, from the destruction of the T-shirt Mr. Murdaugh was wearing the night of the murders to their failure to preserve data on Maggie’s phone.
Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman dismissed one jury prior to the defense’s closing arguments after alleging that the juror had improper conversations regarding the case. The juror was replaced by an alternate.
Throughout the lengthy trial that lasted many weeks, the prosecution established its case against Mr. Murdaugh by attempting to paint him as a desperate man who killed his wife and son in order to win sympathy and hide his long-running financial fraud. Judge Newman permitted prosecutors to submit evidence of the alleged financial crimes as they attempt to establish a motivation even though Mr. Murdaugh is facing a murder charge. This line of attack, the defense has argued, amounted to character assassination.
The state’s motivation, according to Mr. Griffin, didn’t make much sense.
“Their opinion is that he killed his wife and son to divert attention away from a forthcoming financial inquiry, but he now finds himself at the center of a murder investigation and the center of a media frenzy. That’s their goal, according to Mr. Griffin.
Judge Newman instructed the jury on Thursday afternoon that the burden of proof rested with the prosecution to establish the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Leading prosecutor Creighton Waters began his closing statements on Wednesday by describing increasing pressure on Mr. Murdaugh as a result of the alleged financial crimes, which started on June 7, 2021, the day Maggie and Paul were killed.
Mr. Waters claimed that Mr. Murdaugh created an alibi for the night of the shootings based on his own legal experience while citing cellphone data, videos, and testimony.
According to witnesses, a video taken on Paul’s phone moments before the homicides were allegedly committed and in which Mr. Murdaugh’s voice was audible “changed everything” in this case, according to Mr. Waters. The prosecutor then emphasized Mr. Murdaugh’s repeated claims to law enforcement that he wasn’t present when the alleged crimes were being committed—lies that Mr. Murdaugh later admitted to telling while testifying—to law enforcement. The murders took place next to the dog kennels on the family hunting estate. After leaving and coming back to see Maggie and Paul dead, Mr. Murdaugh claimed that he had indeed seen them there.
According to Mr. Waters, there is “ample evidence of criminal action and guilty conscience” and the state believes Mr. Murdaugh had the “motivation, the means, the opportunity.”
“This defendant…has deceived everyone, absolutely everyone, who thought they knew him well. Everyone who believed they were familiar with him. All of them were duped, as well as Maggie and Paul. According to Mr. Waters, they paid a price for it with their lives. “Don’t fall for his tricks as well.”
According to Mr. Griffin on Thursday, Mr. Murdaugh testified that his client lied about being at the kennels because he was paranoid as a result of his drug use.
State prosecutors want Mr. Murdaugh to receive a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Long before the passing of Maggie and Paul, the Murdaughs were well-known. Mr. Murdaugh is a member of a prominent South Carolina family that was responsible for starting a local law business, serving as solicitors (or district attorneys) for a five-county region, and controlling both sides of the legal ledger. His grandfather’s photo has hung in the courtroom where he is being tried for years; it has been taken down for the trial.