In the culmination of the once-prominent lawyer’s fall from grace, Alex Murdaugh was sentenced to life in prison without parole Friday after being convicted of murdering his wife and son.
Judge Clifton Newman asked Mr. Murdaugh if he had anything he wanted to say before sentencing him to two consecutive life terms, and the South Carolina attorney maintained his innocence.
“As I tell you again, I respect this court. But I am innocent. I would never under any circumstances hurt my wife Maggie and I would never under any circumstances hurt my son Paul-Paul,” Mr. Murdaugh responded.
“And it might not have been you. It might have been the monster you become when you take 15, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 opioid pills. Maybe you become another person,” Judge Newman replied, noting Mr. Murdaugh's decadeslong addiction to painkillers.
In lengthy comments, Judge Newman asked Mr. Murdaugh what he meant when he said “oh, what a tangled web we weave” while on the stand in his own defense, when he admitting lying to investigators about being at the kennels where Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were killed.
“I meant when I lied, I continued to lie,” Mr. Murdaugh replied.
“And the question is when will it end? You continued to lie and lie throughout your testimony,” Judge Newman said.
Judge Newman also touched on the Murdaugh family's history as they stood in a courtroom on the circuit where his father, grandfather and great-grandfather tried cases as the elected prosecutor for more than 80 years.
“A lawyer, a person from a respected family who has controlled justice in this community for over a century. A person whose grandfather’s portrait hangs at the back of the courthouse that I had to have ordered removed in order to insure a fair trial,” Judge Newman said.
Prosecutor Creighton Waters said none of the victims of the crime — members of Murdaugh’s family and the parents and relatives of his wife — wished to speak on behalf of the prosecution before sentencing.
“The depravity, the callousness, the selfishness of these crimes are stunning. The lack of remorse and the effortless way in which he is, including here, sitting right over there in this witness stand — your honour, a man like that, a man like this man, should never be allowed to be among free, law abiding citizens,” Mr. Waters said.
Outside the courthouse Friday, Tracy Kinsinger, 58, had one goal: to ensure that Mr. Murdaugh saw his homemade sign reading “MURDERER” that he made after a “mad dash” to Walmart for crafting supplies. For Ms. Kinsinger, who came from Beaufort, South Carolina, the outcome was a vindication of the legal system.
“The truth is he brought shame upon himself, his family, the community, his profession,” Ms. Kinsinger said. “It’s disgraceful.”
Prosecutors asked for a life sentence to hold Mr. Murdaugh responsible for what they say are decades of lying, stealing and using his family's considerable clout in their tiny county to his advantage. The Colleton County jury deliberated for less than three hours before finding Mr. Murdaugh guilty of killing his 22-year-old son with a shotgun and his 52-year-old wife with a rifle on June 7, 2021.
Juror Craig Moyer told ABC News that when deliberations began, the jury immediately took a poll that came back with nine guilty votes. It didn't take long to convince the other three.
The juror agreed with prosecutors that the key piece of evidence was a video locked on his son’s cellphone for a year — video shot minutes before the killings at the same kennels near where the bodies would be found.
The voices of all three Murdaughs can be heard on the video, though Alex Murdaugh had insisted for 20 months that he hadn't been at the kennels that night. When he took the stand in his own defense, the first thing he did was admit he had lied to investigators about being at the kennels, saying he was paranoid of law enforcement because he was addicted to opioids and had pills in his pocket the night of the killings.
“A good liar. But not good enough,” Juror Moyer said.
Prosecutors didn’t have the weapons used to kill the Murdaughs or other direct evidence like confessions or blood spatter. But they had a mountain of circumstantial evidence, including the video putting Murdaugh at the scene of the killings five minutes before his wife and son stopped using their cellphones forever.
Through more than 75 witnesses and nearly 800 pieces of evidence, jurors heard about betrayed friends and clients, Mr. Murdaugh’s failed attempt to stage his own death in an insurance fraud scheme, a fatal boat crash in which his son was implicated, the housekeeper who died in a fall in the Murdaugh home and the grisly scene of the killings.
The now-disbarred attorney admitted stealing millions of dollars from the family firm and clients, saying he needed the money to fund his drug habit. Before he was charged with murder, Mr. Murdaugh was in jail awaiting trial on about 100 other charges ranging from insurance fraud to tax evasion.
At a news conference after the sentencing, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel said the case serves as a notice to anyone who aided in Mr. Murdaugh’s dozens of other alleged crimes.
“Today is not the end. It’s the next step in the long road to justice for every person who has been victimized by Alex Murdaugh,” Mr. Keel said.