The judge presiding over the South Carolina murder trial has said the evidence against the ex-lawyer is ‘overwhelming’.
Alex Murdaugh, the 54-year-old scion of a long-standing legal dynasty in South Carolina, has been found guilty in the murders of his wife and younger son, after a jury in the United States deliberated for less than three hours.
In the wake of the verdict, Murdaugh’s defence team swiftly moved to have the proceedings declared a mistrial. But Judge Clifton Newman rejected the appeal.
“The evidence of guilt is overwhelming,” Newman told the court.
The highly anticipated verdict brings to a close six weeks of testimony and evidence, as prosecutors sought to link the former lawyer to the shooting deaths of his wife Maggie Murdaugh, 52, and his 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh. He now faces between 30 years to life in prison.
Murdaugh’s defence team presented its closing arguments ahead of the jury deliberation on Thursday, with lawyer Jim Griffin pointing to what he considered serious flaws in the murder investigation.
Griffin argued that investigators and prosecutors jumped to conclusions about Murdaugh, zeroing in on him as a suspect without properly collecting evidence or considering alternative theories.
The defence alleged that investigators failed to collect fingerprint and blood evidence, while discarding key materials like the victims’ clothes and the fabric sheet used to cover the bodies, which could have carried DNA pointing to other suspects.
Griffin also noted that there was no DNA evidence linking Murdaugh to the crime scene. The murder weapons were also not recovered.
“How could he have butchered Maggie and Paul without leaving a trace of evidence within a matter of minutes?” Griffin said. Given the amount of blood splatter from the shootings and the short window of time Murdaugh would have had to act, Griffin argued there would no way his client could have pulled off the crime.
“He had 17 minutes. He would have to be a magician to make all that evidence disappear,” Griffin said.
But the prosecution ultimately made the final remarks to the jury, arguing in its rebuttal that the 12-member panel did not have to solve every mystery in the Murdaugh case to know that he was guilty.
“You can’t answer every question, and the law doesn’t require it,” lawyer John Meadors told the jury.
Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were found shot to death outside the dog kennels on their vast rural property in an isolated part of Colleton County, South Carolina, on June 7, 2021.
Four to five rifle shots were identified on Maggie Murdaugh’s body. Paul Murdaugh, meanwhile, had been killed by two blasts from a shotgun, each with a different sized bullet.
Throughout the proceedings, Murdaugh has denied any involvement in the double murder, saying he was on a visit to his ailing mother, who has dementia, at the time of the deaths.
Initially, he also claimed to be nowhere near the dog kennels that evening. But a key piece of prosecution evidence placed him in the vicinity: After a year of attempts, investigators managed to unlock Paul Murdaugh’s iPhone, which contained a video taken near the kennels on the night of the attack. His father’s voice can be heard on the recording.
Murdaugh belongs to a powerful family of lawyers in South Carolina. His great-grandfather, grandfather and father were all elected solicitors to the state’s 14th Circuit Court, putting them in charge of pursuing and prosecuting criminal cases in five South Carolina counties.
In addition to Thursday’s murder trial, Murdaugh continues to face over 100 charges for crimes including numerous financial misdeeds. He is accused, for instance, of stealing $7m from his family’s law firm and taking money from his clients’ legal settlements, to the tune of $8.8m.