Day 28: Murdaugh found guilty on all charges, sentencing scheduled
WALTERBORO. (WIS) - At around 6:41 p.m. the jury reported it had a verdict to the clerk of courts. Alex Murdaugh’s family and defense lawyers returned to the courtroom in anticipation of a verdict.
The jury found Murdaugh guilty unanimously on both counts of murder.
Murdaugh’s defense team requested a mistrial. Judge Clifton Newman denied the motion. Newman said he would sentence him at a later date, the minimum sentence for Murder is 30 years, and the maximum is life imprisonment.
Sentencing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on March 3, 2023.
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said after the verdict, “It was all worth it because we got to bring justice.”
The legal team of the former Lowcountry attorney presented its closing arguments on Thursday in the Alex Murdaugh murder trial.
Murdaugh faces up to 30 years to life in prison if he is convicted of the June 7, 2021 murder of his wife Maggie, and son Paul.
On Wednesday, the jurors toured the rural hunting property in the Islandton community.
Court resumes at 9:30 a.m. on March 2.
Thursday morning began with Judge Clifton Newman dismissing a juror. He said his order to not discuss the case to jurors with outside parties had been violated.
After more than 75 witnesses and 800 pieces of evidence, jurors heard the state’s closing argument Wednesday in the double murder trial of Alex Murdaugh, accused of murdering his wife Maggie and son Paul in June of 2021.
The prosecution attempted to paint the picture of a desperate man, who faced with the possibility of a decades-long scheme of financial crimes being exposed, committed these crimes.
Lead prosecutor Creighton Waters spoke for more than three hours, describing what he called a “gathering storm” coming for Murdaugh.
Waters keyed in on motive, something he did not do in opening statements because it was not clear how much of Murdaugh’s alleged financial crimes presiding Judge Clifton Newman would allow in.
“There is only one person who had the motive, who had the means, who had the opportunity to commit these crimes and also whose guilty conduct after these crimes betrays him,” he said. “The defendant is the one person who was living a lie, the defendant is the one person on which a storm was descending, and the defendant tis a person where his own storm would actually mean consequences for Maggie and Paul.”
Waters said Murdaugh was facing a financial firestorm the night of the murders.
He pointed out how that day, Murdaugh was confronted by Jeannie Seckinger over $792,000 in missing fees at his law firm, PMPED.
He described how the velocity of money Murdaugh had stolen from clients was running out of steam, in a “slow burn,” and the bill was coming due.
Waters explained how the 2019 boat crash involving his son Paul, and the civil and criminal cases surrounding the crash that killed Mallory Beach, set in motion more stealing from Murdaugh, and ultimately played into motive as well.
Murdaugh’s scheme, Waters argued, worked for a time.
The hearing on the 2019 fatal boat crash lawsuit was canceled, and the murders turned Murdaugh into a sympathetic figure.
Waters described Murdaugh’s actions as “anything to keep the hamster wheel going.”
The state does not have any direct evidence tying Murdaugh to the crime, nor do they have the murder weapons, but they do a video placing Murdaugh at the kennels, the scene of the crime, just minutes before the state alleges the killings happened.
Murdaugh admitted to lying about this, but blamed it on his opioid addiction and a distrust of SLED.
Waters argued before the jury that Murdaugh fits the description of a “family annihilator.”
“It’s certainly easy to understand when you have a middle-aged man who is outwardly successful, who has a strong family legacy, who has a prominence in the community and a reputation, but is living a lie,” he said. “And that leads to and can lead to those pressures being overwhelming and actions like this happening. Husbands have been killing wives unfortunately for years, and husbands killing sons goes back as far as King Herod, probably further.”
While Waters spent part of his closing argument explaining terms like malice and reasonable doubt, he spent the latter half describing all of Murdaugh’s lies surrounding June 7, 2021, hammering the theme of credibility: particularly, as it relates to the lie Murdaugh told to family, friends and law enforcement that he was not at the kennels after dinner that night.
Waters asked jurors, “Why would an innocent man lie about that?”
Waters also highlighted the fact that a family weapon was used to kill Maggie, and how the shells found by Maggie’s body were cycled through from the same missing .300 Blackout rifle as the shells fired months earlier near the gun room.
He also pointed out Murdaugh could not remember his last conversation with Maggie and Paul, but said he went straight down to the kennels and back.
Murdaugh described removing the chicken from the family dog’s mouth as “the fastest dog chicken chase ever.”
He also noted the moment in Murdaugh’s testimony last week when the defendant stated the dogs did not sense anyone else at the kennels.
Murdaugh’s testimony was not reasonable, Waters argued, as he said that Murdaugh would have had to take the “shortest nap in the history of the south” after leaving the kennels.
He suggested how Murdaugh, being a lawyer, knew to use two guns for the murder to throw off investigators, and pointed out how the victims, Paul and Maggie, did not suffer defensive wounds, suggesting they were surprised by the attack, or familiar with their attacker.
Waters also crossed a key threshold in appealing to jurors emotions, describing the last moments of Maggie’s life.
He said she was “running to her baby when she got mowed down” after hearing the fatal shots that killed Paul.
Waters also suggested for the first time in the trial how easy it would have been for Murdaugh to wash himself down at the kennels after the murders by using a hose that was later described in testimony as “misplaced” by the worker who was tasked with keeping the kennels clean.
Waters asked why Murdaugh was so active from 9:02 to 9:06 P.M., when he failed to remember what he was doing during that timeframe from the witness stand.
Waters asked, “Were you doing jumping jacks?”
Waters also asked jurors why Murdaugh did not drive by the kennels, even though he called Maggie twice while leaving Moselle at 9:06 to go to his mother’s Almeda home.
Waters said the reason was to establish an alibi that would later be decimated by his being at the kennels when he previously said he was “napping.”
Waters concluded by asking the jury to render a guilty verdict.
Jurors were able to tour the Moselle property immediate before closing arguments, although they were not allowed to talk with each other.
They were only allowed to observe the kennels and survey the distance between the kennels and the main house.
Much has changed at the property, including slight renovations to the kennel area, and overgrowth and taller trees have grown in the past year and a half.
Jurors got the chance to match the actual crime scene with the descriptions they have heard for the past five and half weeks in the courtroom.
The defense argues that SLED missed evidence, and singled out Murdaugh from the start, to the exclusion of other suspects.
They also brought forward experts who said there were two shooters.
The defense will begin their closing argument Thursday morning at 9:30 A.M. The case could be in the jury’s hands by Thursday afternoon. The jury will then be charged, with a verdict any time after that.
Newman has ruled that the jury may deliberate over the weekend, if needed.
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