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Alex Murdaugh facing 30 years to life after jury convicts former attorney on all charges

Alex Murdaugh was found guilty on all four counts at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro on Thursday, March 2, 2023. Andrew J. Whitaker/The Post and Courier/Pool
Alex Murdaugh was found guilty on all four counts at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro on Thursday, March 2, 2023. Andrew J. Whitaker/The Post and Courier/Pool
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In what some are calling the most dramatic murder trial South Carolina has seen in decades, former attorney Alex Murdaugh was convicted of killing his own wife and son Thursday.

After just three hours of deliberations, the jury found Murdaugh guilty on all charges — two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a violent crime — bringing an end to the captivating trial that pushed rural Colleton County into the national spotlight for more than five weeks.

Murdaugh kept a stoic composure as the verdict was read but moments later, as he was being put in handcuffs, he appeared to mouth “I love you” to his son Buster — who testified in Murdaugh’s defense — before he was led out of the courtroom.

He ignored questions from reporters about his wife and son as he made his way out of the building, heading back to Richland County jail where he is being held to await his sentencing hearing, which will be held at 9:30 a.m. Friday. He faces a minimum sentence of 30 years in prison for the murder charges and a maximum of life in prison. Prosecutors have said they are not seeking the death penalty.

"After carefully reviewing this case and all the surrounding facts, we have decided to seek life without parole for Alex Murdaugh. Because this is a pending case, we cannot comment further," South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said in a statement in December.

Judge Clifton Newman denied the defense's motion for a mistrial, saying there "was sufficient evidence to find the defendant guilty if the evidence was believed by the jury."

Attorneys with the state of South Carolina sent a strong message following the verdict, saying no one is above the law.

"It doesn't matter how much money you have, or people think you have, it doesn't matter what you think, how prominent you are. If you do wrong, if you break the law, if you murder, then justice will be done in South Carolina,” lead prosecutor Creighton Waters said.

“Our criminal justice system worked tonight. It gave a voice to Maggie and Paul Murdaugh who were brutally mowed down and murdered the night of June 7, 2021, by someone they loved, someone that they trusted,” South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said.

“They couldn't be here to testify themselves tonight. Their testimony came through the evidence and information from the men and women of the agencies I just mentioned,” Wilson continued.

Outside of the courthouse, defense attorney Jim Griffin told Fox News that they are disappointed and will not comment until he is sentenced.

In court, Griffin argued that investigators zeroed in on Murdaugh without doing a thorough investigation and “fabricated” evidence against him.

"We believe SLED [South Carolina Law Enforcement Division] failed miserably investigating this case and had they done a competent job, Alex would have been excluded from that circle a year ago, two years ago," Griffin said.

In its closing arguments Thursday, Griffin said although Murdaugh is a liar, he is not a killer and would never commit such a brutal crime against those he loved most.

“The evidence was overwhelmingly against him from the clothing to lying and just lying and lying and lying. Here, the problem was the defense case was so reliant upon Murdaugh’s credibility but what was established was that Murdaugh was just a thief and a dishonest person. So you're really starting with a lot of problems when the defendant himself is out there saying, ‘yeah, I'm a big liar,” criminal defense attorney Steve Greenberg said.

The prosecution maintained that Murdaugh was the only person who had the means, motive and opportunity to commit the crimes. They said Murdaugh must have been the gunman because neither victim defended themselves from the attacker, and were believed to have their hands down.

“Everyone thought they were close to him. Everyone thought they knew who he was. He fooled them all and he fooled maggie and paul too. and they paid for it with their lives. don't let him fool you too,” Waters said.

Before closing arguments were delivered Wednesday, jurors toured the property where Murdaugh's wife and youngest son were shot in killed, focusing on the dog kennel and the shed where the bodies were found. They were the areas that were at the center of much of the testimony. They spent about an hour at the scene where bullet holes were still visible in some places.

With the verdict now in hand, many are analyzing the case — including the decision to allow those jurors to see the sprawling and secluded property referred to as Moselle where the crimes took place.

"They got an opportunity to see not only where the crime scene was, they spent time there they weren't the kennels and the feed room — if you've been following along, the feed room was where Paul was murdered Maggie just about 30 feet away from that — so they were able to walk in and actually just kind of visually see what they've been hearing about for six weeks, as well as a brief visit up to the main house," WCIV reporter Anne Emerson told The National Desk.

There is also the question of whether Murdaugh taking the stand himself helped or hurt him.

"His lawyers must have felt there was a reason he should testify. Typically, a defendant will only testify in a criminal case if it's a Hail Mary because the jurors are told that you can't hurt anything from the defendant not testifying," Greenberg said. "The reality is that jurors want a defendant to look them in the eyes and tell them he didn't do it. If you watch Murdaugh when he testified, he was not looking those jurors in the eyes and giving them a cognizant explanation of why he was not guilty."

As the nation awaits the sentencing that will bring the gripping case to a close, Greenberg says he expects the judge to hand down life or something to the equivalent.

“You know, this is a very depraved crime. He killed his own child,” Greenberg said. “To kill your own child, I don't think it can get much worse than that. So I would be shocked if the judge did not give him anything that amounted to a life sentence. It may not be life itself but it may be enough years to get there.”

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