COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Alex Murdaugh was sentenced Friday to two consecutive life terms in prison for the murders of his wife and son.
He was found guilty Thursday of murdering his wife Margaret and youngest son Paul at their family property in June of 2021.
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Murdaugh was indicted on two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime on July 14, 2022 – nearly a year after the killings. The indictments came amid a flurry of charges by the state on financial and other crimes.
Despite the indictments, Murdaugh has long maintained his innocence in the deaths of his wife and son and said that he looked forward to clearing his name and hoped the Attorney General would then begin “looking for the actual killer or killers” in the case.
Before sentencing Murdaugh, Judge Clifton Newman took time to address Murdaugh personally. He said that this has been a particularly troubling case for him because he knows Murdaugh. He said to see Murdaugh, a fellow lawyer, violate the profession in such a way was disappointing. He said Murdaugh had a beautiful family and seemed to be a good person himself, and it was tough to watch Murdaugh plummet from grace.
Murdaugh spoke multiple times during the sentencing, each time maintaining his innocence. His defense team is standing behind him and plans to file a notice of appeal within the next 10 days.
Attorney General Alan Wilson and state prosecutor Creighton Waters said that the verdict and sentencing were big wins for the justice system in South Carolina, but they should not overshadow the true tragedy of the case: the loss of Maggie and Paul’s lives.
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5:20 p.m. – Alex Murdaugh was processed into Kirkland Reception and Evaluation Center in Columbia, South Carolina. He will undergo a roughly 45-day evaluation process.
12:15 p.m. – Alex Murdaugh’s defense team is speaking to the media.
Dick Harpootlian introduces each of the members of the team. He says that they will not make a statement, but will answer questions.
When asked about the death penalty, Harpootlian says that he has prosecuted and defended several death penalty cases. He says that in cases with circumstantial evidence, it is rare to bring the death penalty because the jury almost certainly will not convict.
Harpootlian says that in 10 days they will be filing a notice to appeal. Jim Griffin says the admission of all the financial crimes evidence is the strongest grounds for appeal. He says the evidence was admitted on grounds of motive, which they opposed in the first place, but in closing arguments prosecution admitted that they didn’t have to prove motive. Griffin says that admission proves prosecution fought to get the evidence in just to slander Murdaugh’s character.
The team says they will appeal to federal courts and the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary. They say they have grounds because they believe Murdaugh’s Fifth Amendment was violated.
Harpootlian says Murdaugh had to take the stand after the financial evidence was admitted to try and renew his credibility.
Griffin says that Buster didn’t take the stand for victim impact statements because it would not have made a difference. They say they could have put Mother Theresa up on the stand and it would not have swayed Judge Newman’s decision of two life sentences. Why put Buster through even more trauma?
The team is asked if Murdaugh will have any special protections in prison. Griffin says he doesn’t think so.
Someone asks what they are doing to find the real killer. Harpootlian says it’s not their job to find the real killer. He says SLED butchered the investigation and he doesn’t have faith they will ever find the real killer.
Harpootlian says a change of venue would not have made a difference. He says they did focus groups in two other counties and eight out of 10 people in both groups knew about the case. He said there was nowhere to go where people hadn’t heard about it.
10:12 a.m. – Court is adjourned.
10:05 a.m. – Judge Newman sentences Murdaugh to two consecutive life sentences for the murders of Maggie and Paul.
9:48 a.m. – Judge Newman speaks. He says this has been one of the most troubling cases for him as a judge, for both the prosecution and defense, for the community, the media, and the nation.
He says that a wife and son were brutally murdered and a lawyer and member of a respected family has fallen from grace.
Judge Newman references Murdaugh’s grandfather’s portrait, which was removed from the courtroom ahead of the trial.
Judge Newman says that he has this case against Murdaugh as well as at least 99 others against Murdaugh.
Judge Newman addresses Murdaugh directly. He says it was especially heartbreaking for him to see Murdaugh’s downfall because they have known each other and practiced law together for years. He says Murdaugh has engaged in “such duplicitous conduct” in the courtroom, on the witness stand, and throughout the entire investigation.
Judge Newman says in the past 22 years, he has yet to find a murder defendant who can go back to the moment when they decided to pull the trigger and explain what happened.
Judge Newman says the case qualifies for the death penalty. The state has elected not to pursue the death penalty. Judge Newman says he doesn’t question the state’s decision not to pursue it, but he reflects on the many death penalties Murdaugh’s family has handed down over hundreds of years to people in that very courtroom, probably for lesser penalties.
He asks Murdaugh what he meant by “what a tangled web we weave.” Murdaugh says that when he lies, he continues to lie. Judge Newman asks when it will end.
Judge Newman says he is sure Murdaugh sees Paul and Maggie when he is trying to sleep. Murdaugh says all day and every night. Judge Newman says he is sure they remember the last time they looked him in the eyes.
Judge Newman asks Murdaugh again if he wants to say anything. Murdaugh says he respects the court, but he is innocent and would never hurt his wife and son. Judge Newman says it might not have been Murdaugh. It might have been the monster he becomes when he is under the influence of drugs.
Judge Newman says that he can’t imagine the pressure that was mounting on Murdaugh under the looming storm that the prosecution described.
9:40 a.m. – Court is in session.
State prosecutor Creighton Waters speaks ahead of sentencing.
He says that the verdict shows Murdaugh was a cunning manipulator who put himself above everything and everyone else, including his family.
Waters says that this case is ultimately about Maggie and Paul.
He says that no one knew who Murdaugh was. Waters says he has looked Murdaugh in the eyes and that it is chilling.
Waters says a man like this man should never see the light of day again. He asks for two consecutive life sentences.
There will be no victim impact statements because none of the victims want to speak. Waters says that the victim advocate has been working with family members, no matter their position, and none of them wished to speak.
Murdaugh addresses the court. He says he is innocent, he would never hurt Maggie, and he would never hurt PawPaw.
9:00 a.m. – Alex Murdaugh, wearing a tan jumpsuit, arrived at the Colleton County Courthouse for his sentencing.
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