WALTERBORO, S.C. — Judge Clifton Newman sentenced disgraced attorney Alex Murdaugh to two life terms, to be served consecutively, for the murders of his wife and son.
Update 12:25 p.m. EST March 3:
Attorneys representing Alex Murdaugh pledged to appeal the guilty verdict at a news conference outside of the courthouse.
Jim Griffin, speaking at the news conference, said that the appeal would be filed within 10 days. Griffin said he believes the appeal will be granted based on the judge’s decision to admit evidence of Murdaugh’s financial crimes at his murder trial, The New York Times reported.
Update 10:06 a.m. EST March 3:
Newman spoke directly to Murdaugh during the hearing, reflecting on the professional history the two had.
“As a member of the legal community, a well-known member of the legal community, you’ve practiced law before me. And we’ve seen each other at various occasions throughout the years. And it was especially heartbreaking for me to see you go in the media from being a grieving father who lost their wife and son to being the person indicted and convicted of killing them. ... This case qualifies under our death penalty statute, based on the statutory aggravating circumstances...I don’t question at all the decision of the state not to pursue the death penalty, but as I sit here in this courtroom and look around the many portraits of judges and other court officials and reflect on the fact that over the past century your family, including you, have been prosecuting people here in this courtroom, and many have received the death penalty, probably for lesser conduct.”
Murdaugh addressed the court himself, saying simply, “I’m innocent. I would never hurt my wife, Maggie, and I would never hurt my son.”
Newman questioned Murdaugh’s decision not to defend himself further, saying, “Your license to practice law has been stripped away from you, turned from lawyer to witness, and now you have an opportunity to make your final appeal, as an ex-lawyer. It’s almost, really surprising, that you’re waiving this right at this time.”
Murdaugh responded, “I’ll say again, I’ll say in this court. I am innocent. I would never, under any circumstances, hurt my wife Maggie. I would never, under any circumstances, hurt my son (Paul).”
Newman said, “It might not have been you. It might have been the monster you’ve become.”
Update 9:51 a.m. EST March 3:
At a sentencing hearing that began just before 9:45 a.m. EST Friday, prosecutors asked a judge to sentence disgraced attorney Alex Murdaugh to the maximum sentence of two consecutive life terms for the murders of his wife and son.
“I could see the real Alex Murdaugh when he looked at me. The depravity, the callousness, the selfishness of these crimes are stunning,” Prosecutor Creighton Waters said in court. “A man like that, a man like this man, should never be allowed to be among free law-abiding citizens again.”
The South Carolina jury took less than three hours to come to a unanimous verdict, finding Murdaugh guilty of murdering both his wife, Maggie, and son, Paul, on June 7, 2021. Murdaugh was also convicted of two counts of possession of a weapon in the commission of a crime.
Prosecutors had previously said that they would ask a judge to sentence Murdaugh to life in prison without the possibility of parole, and are not seeking the death penalty, The New York Times reported.
“We can’t bring them back, but we can bring them justice,” Alan Wilson, South Carolina’s attorney general, said about the victims in a news conference following the verdict. “Today’s verdict proved that no one, no matter who you are in society, is above the law.”
Murdaugh showed no emotion after hearing the verdict from the jury of seven men and five women.
Maggie Murdaugh, 52, and her son Paul, 22, were found shot to death, execution-style, on the family’s property, The State reported. Prosecutors said Alex Murdaugh executed his son inside the feed room of a dog kennel before killing his wife with a high-powered rifle.
The prosecutors’ case had more than 75 witnesses and nearly 800 pieces of evidence which they said showed Murdaugh betrayed friends and clients, attempted to stage his own death in an insurance fraud scheme, and detailed a deadly boat crash that implicated Murdaugh’s son as well as an accident in the Murdaugh home that led to a housekeeper’s death, The Associated Press reported.
Murdaugh took the stand in his own defense during the trial, and in testimony admitted to stealing from clients and battling a growing addiction to painkillers.
Judge Clifton Newman said Thursday that people who wish to speak about the damage caused by Murdaugh or in support of showing him leniency would have the opportunity to do so during Friday’s sentencing hearing, The New York Times reported.
After the verdict was read, the judge denied a request by the defense to declare a mistrial, saying “the evidence of guilt is overwhelming,” the AP reported.