Alex Murdaugh, the disgraced South Carolina lawyer accused of murdering his wife and son to gain pity and distract from financial crimes threatening to topple his reputation, was found guilty Thursday in their slayings.
After deliberating for three hours, the jury of seven men and five women convicted Murdaugh, 54, of two counts of murder in the fatal shootings of Margaret, 52, and their youngest son, Paul, 22, in June 2021. He faces 30 years to life in prison without parole.
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The jury also convicted him of two counts of possession of a weapon during a violent crime, which carry five more years in prison.
Murdaugh blinked repeatedly but was stone-faced as he stood in court as the guilty verdicts were read. Each juror was then asked whether the verdicts were correct and said yes.
Sentencing was deferred until 9:30 a.m. Friday.
Electronic data leads jury to find Alex Murdaugh guilty of double murderMarch 3, 202303:33
Lawyers for Murdaugh moved for a mistrial after the verdicts were read. The motion was denied by the judge, who said that the verdict was a matter for the jury and that there was enough evidence for it to have found Murdaugh guilty.
"The evidence of guilt is overwhelming, and I deny the motion," state Circuit Judge Clifton Newman said.
Newman thanked the jurors later and said their verdict was supported by the evidence.
"All of the evidence pointed to only one conclusion. That's the conclusion that you all reached," he said.
The relatively short deliberation period followed a lengthy trial that began in late January and included nearly six weeks of testimony from 75 witnesses, including Murdaugh.
In closing arguments earlier Thursday, the defense depicted Murdaugh, who was disbarred last year in the wake of the charges, as a family man with a loving relationship with his wife and children.
Defense lawyer Jim Griffin stressed that the state had no direct evidence that he pulled the trigger before calling 911 on the evening of June 7, 2021, to say he had found his wife and son's bodies near kennels at their hunting estate in rural Colleton County.
Investigators had testified that Paul was struck twice by a shotgun, while Margaret was shot multiple times with an AR-style rifle. Neither weapon has been found. Agents said they matched the murder weapons using shell casings from family firearms.
The prosecution built a sprawling case based on circumstantial evidence to convince jurors that Murdaugh was guilty, using electronic data and video extracted from the victims' cellphones to suggest that only he had the motive, means and opportunity to kill his wife and son.
According to prosecutors, Murdaugh had been swindling clients for years, and he used the money, in part, to feed an addiction to pain pills.
Murdaugh had also been under strain from a lawsuit involving Paul, who at the time of his death was facing trial on three felony counts of boating under the influence in connection with a 2019 boat crash that killed a teenage passenger.
During the state's closing arguments Wednesday, lead prosecutor Creighton Waters said that Murdaugh had much to lose if his financial malfeasance was exposed but that the deaths of his wife and son promptly stopped the law firm's investigation and stymied the boat crash case to his advantage.
One of the state's key pieces of evidence was video extracted from Paul's cellphone of the kennels, in which three voices — those of Paul, Margaret and Murdaugh — could be heard talking about a dog in the minutes before 8:50 p.m.
Murdaugh repeatedly told investigators that he was napping and then had gone to visit his mother, who has Alzheimer's disease, before he returned home to find his wife and son dead.
Asked why his voice could be heard in the video, Murdaugh admitted on the stand last week to having lied about his location before the murders because of his drug addiction and general paranoia.
But Waters said in closing arguments that it defied belief that another killer or killers knew to go to the family's estate at the exact time Murdaugh wasn't there and use the family’s firearms and kill his wife and son.
After the verdicts, Waters said the conviction brings justice for Maggie and Paul Murdaugh, and he thanked the jurors.
"We had no doubt that if we had a chance to present our case in a court of law, that they would see through the one last con that Alex Murdaugh was trying to pull — and they did," Waters said.
The trial attracted intense coverage for a case first classified as an unsolved double homicide, but it soon unraveled into wider allegations of financial fraud, a hired hitman plot and drug addiction, and it revived inquiries into other curious deaths linked to the Murdaugh family.
Murdaugh's defense team didn't immediately comment about the verdict.