Murdaugh murders: Disgraced South Carolina attorney found guilty in double murder of wife, son

The jury deliberated for nearly three hours before reaching a verdict.

ByMeredith Deliso ABCNews logo
Thursday, March 2, 2023
Alex Murdaugh murders trial
Alex Murdaugh murders trial

WALTERBORO, S.C. -- Disgraced South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh has been found guilty on all counts, including the double murder of his wife, Maggie, and son, Paul.

The jury deliberated for just a few hours Thursday after 28 days of trial and 26 days of testimony.

Murdaugh's attorney immediately requested for a mistrial following the verdict, which the judge denied.

Alex Murdaugh was placed in handcuffs and was silently escorted out of the courtroom. Murdaugh did not appear to displace any emotion during the verdict reading.

The four charges against Murdaugh are:

  • Murder of Margaret "Maggie" Murdaugh

  • Murder of Paul Murdaugh

  • Possession of a weapon in the commitment of violent crime in the murder of Margaret Murdaugh

  • Possession of a weapon in the commitment of violent crime in the murder of Paul Murdaugh

    The minimum sentence for the murder charge is 30 years and the maximum is life in prison, ABC News reported. The gun charges lead to a sentence of up to five years in prison to run concurrently if he is sentenced to life.

    The jury reached the verdict after deliberating for nearly three hours Thursday after hearing five weeks of testimony from more than 70 witnesses -- including Alex Murdaugh himself, who denied the murders but admitted to lying to investigators and cheating his clients.

    He was found guilty on all four counts -- two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a weapon in the commitment of a violent crime.

    Judge Clifton Newman said the court would reconvene Friday morning at 9:30 a.m. local time for sentencing.

    The jury visited the family's estate, Moselle, on Wednesday to see the crime scene ahead of deliberations. The bodies of Margaret Murdaugh, 52, and Paul Murdaugh, 22, were found dead from multiple gunshot wounds near the dog kennels at the family's estate in June 2021, authorities said.

    Alex Murdaugh, 54, who called 911 to report the discovery, was charged with their murders more than a year later.

    Prosecutors claim that Alex Murdaugh, who comes from a legacy of prominent attorneys in the region, killed his wife and son to gain sympathy and distract from his financial wrongdoings.

    SEE ALSO: Alex Murdaugh's surviving son testifies he was 'destroyed' by fatal shootings of wife, son

    Meanwhile, the defense has portrayed him as a loving husband and father, and argued that police ignored the possibility that anyone else could have killed them. While testifying, Alex Murdaugh blamed lying to investigators on his addiction to painkillers, which he said caused "paranoid thinking."

    During his nearly four-hour closing argument on Wednesday, lead prosecutor Creighton Waters declared that Alex Murdaugh was the only person "who had the motive, who had the means, who had the opportunity to commit these crimes" and that his "guilty conduct after these crimes betrays him."

    Waters told the jurors that credibility is important and painted Murdaugh as someone good at lying who was used to anticipating how jurors read things.

    "This is an individual who was trained to understand how to put together cases, complex cases. He's been a prosecutor," said Waters. "He's given closing arguments to juries before. So, when you have a defendant like that, be thinking about whether or not this individual is constructing defenses and alibis."

    Waters recounted a timeline investigators put together of the three Murdaughs' cell phones the day of the murders, including a video from Paul Murdaugh's phone that placed Alex Murdaugh at the kennels minutes before authorities believe the shootings occurred -- contradicting earlier statements in which he said he was never at the kennels.

    SEE MORE: Murdaugh trial updates: Former lawyer testifies in own defense, admits he lied to investigators

    Waters said the last time Alex Murdaugh saw his wife and child alive was the "most important thing" he could have told law enforcement.

    "Why in the world would an innocent, reasonable father and husband lie about that and lie about it so early?" Waters said.

    The defense argued that the state had failed to meet its burden to prove guilt and that investigators "failed miserably" in the case, deciding immediately that Alex Murdaugh was responsible for killing his wife and son and never looking elsewhere.

    Defense attorney Jim Griffin recounted to jurors during his closing argument on Thursday the multiple missed opportunities, pointing out evidence that investigators did not collect including foot imprints, fingerprints and DNA. He also replayed videos in which prosecution witnesses testified about how much Alex Murdaugh loved his wife and son.

    "Which brings us to the question, why?" said Griffin, discounting the state's proposed motive that years of lies and theft were about to catch up to Alex Murdaugh and the murders were a way to divert attention.

    "Even if the financial day of reckoning was impending, if it was right there, he would not have killed the people he loved the most in the world," he said. "There's no evidence that he would do that."

    RELATED: These are the names to know in the murder trial against Alex Murdaugh

    Griffin also addressed that Alex Murdaugh admitted to lying to investigators about his alibi the evening of the shootings.

    "I probably wouldn't be sitting over there right now if he did not lie. But he did lie, and he told you he lied," Griffin told the jurors."He lied because that's what addicts do. He lied because he had a closet full of skeletons and he didn't want any more scrutiny on him."

    In the months following his wife's and son's murders, Alex Murdaugh resigned from his law firm, which sued him for allegedly funneling stolen money from clients and the law firm into a fake bank account for years. He also said he entered a rehab facility for opioid addiction.

    Alex Murdaugh faces about 100 other charges for allegations ranging from money laundering to staging his own death so his surviving son could cash in on his $10 million life insurance policy. He was also charged for allegedly misappropriating settlement funds in the death of his housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, who reportedly died after a falling accident at the Murdaugh family home in February 2018.

    ABC News' Janice McDonald contributed to this report.