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Alex Murdaugh’s stand was a ‘fatal’ decision in his double murder trial, South Carolina AG says


Alex Murdaugh’s stand was a ‘fatal’ decision for him in his double murder trial – and the Snapchat video that placed him near the scene of the death of his wife and youngest son was the final “nail” that sealed the case, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said Friday before sentencing.

Appearing on NBC’s “TODAY” show Friday morning, Wilson spoke about the moments from the high-profile trial that sealed Murdaugh’s fate.

After three hours of deliberation on Thursday, a jury of seven men and five women convicted the disgraced 54-year-old Lowcountry lawyer of murdering his wife, Margaret, 52, and son Paul, 22 years old, on their hunting grounds in rural Colleton County. in June 2021.

“That kennel video that no one knew existed until months after the murders, it was basically Paul speaking from beyond the grave. That, yes, Alex Murdaugh was there moments before Maggie and Paul be brutally murdered. That was a major part of the state’s case,” Wilson said.

In the case, the state presented Snapchat video evidence taken from Paul’s cell phone that placed Murdaugh in the estate’s kennel at 8:44 p.m. on the night of the murders, countering his denial to investigators that he had seen his family for the last time at dinner time. Paul and Margaret were killed between 8:50 p.m. and 9:06 p.m., according to investigators.

The attorney general said Murdaugh himself was the “biggest piece of evidence.”

“When he spoke up, I think it was ultimately fatal to him,” Wilson said. his closing argument before the jury. I believe in my mind that he thought he could pull it off. And at the end of the day, I think that’s what sealed it,” he said.

He explained that the state pleaded for motive in the lawsuit – arguing that Murdaugh was trying to win mercy and distract from financial crimes threatening to destroy his reputation – because people struggled to understand the brutality of the crime.

“One of the things I would get from people on the street…people can understand a spouse killing another spouse, but the way Paul and Maggie were murdered, his son, the brutality, people just had to wrong to make that leap,” Wilson explained.

Alex Murdaugh is handcuffed in the courtroom after a guilty verdict on Thursday.Andrew J. Whitaker/AP

“What you have is a family legacy that is over 100 years old, you have a man who lived a privileged lifestyle in a world that many of us will never know, and it was all going to end up end. And he was desperate,” he said. “He wasn’t just killing his wife and son because of the money he wasn’t earning, that was it, that was a whole lifestyle and a life that was about to end.”

Wilson said he believed Murdaugh probably loved his wife and son in his own way, “but he loved himself more. And killing them was the price he was willing to pay to preserve his way of life. .”

Murdaugh faces 30 years to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In addition to two counts of murder, the jury also found him guilty of two counts of possessing a weapon in a violent crime, which carries an additional five years in prison.

Sentencing in his case was to begin later Friday morning.

Murdaugh’s lawyers requested a mistrial after the verdicts were read. The motion, however, was denied by the judge, who said the verdict was up to the jury and there was enough evidence to convict the disgraced lawyer.

“The evidence of guilt is overwhelming and I deny the motion,” Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman said.

The jury’s decision came after a trial that began in late January and included nearly six weeks of testimony from 75 witnesses, including Murdaugh.

Conviction for the murder of Alex Murdaugh
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson speaks to the media following Alex Murdaugh’s sentencing outside the Colleton County Courthouse on Thursday. Chris Carlson/AP

Prosecutors said Murdaugh, who was disbarred last year on the charges, defrauded clients for years and used the money in part to feed an addiction to painkillers. He had also been embroiled in a lawsuit involving Paul, who at the time of his death had been tried on three counts of browsing under the influence in connection with a 2019 boating accident that killed a teenage passenger.

The deaths of his wife and son halted the law firm’s investigation into Murdaugh’s alleged financial malfeasance and stymied the boating accident case to his advantage, senior prosecutor Creighton Waters said.

During closing arguments, the defense portrayed Murdaugh as a family man who was romantically involved with his wife and children.

Defense attorney Jim Griffin had argued the state had no direct evidence that his client carried out the murders until he called 911 the night of the shooting, June 7, 2021, to say he had found the bodies of his wife and son near the kennels at their hunting grounds.

Investigators testified that Paul was hit twice with a shotgun, while Margaret was shot multiple times with an AR-type rifle. No weapons were found, but officers said they used casings from family firearms to match the murder weapons.

The prosecution relied on circumstantial evidence for much of its case to convince jurors that Murdaugh was guilty, using electronic data and cellphone video from the victims to suggest he was the only person with the motive, the means and the possibility of killing them.

“We had no doubt that if we had the chance to take our case to court, they would see through the latest scam that Alex Murdaugh was trying to pull off – and they did,” Waters said Thursday, s speaking after the jury’s verdict.

Wilson said the case captivated the nation because of its complexity.

“You can’t write that story in Hollywood. It’s a generational story. It goes back to the boat case. It goes back decades before that,” he said. “I want to remind people, as interesting as this case is, that many lives have been destroyed. Two people were brutally murdered and there is a trail of Alex Murdaugh victims leading up to this.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.