In South Carolina, Alex Murdaugh was found guilty of two counts of murder and given a life sentence on Friday morning. His counsel has stated that they intend to fight this decision. The disgraced former lawyer was found guilty on all four counts—murdering his wife, Maggie Murdaugh, in 2021, killing his son Paul Murdaugh in 2022, and two counts of having a weapon while committing a crime—on Thursday.
Judge Clifton Newman announced a sentence of “the rest of your natural life” in prison, to be served consecutively for each of the two murder charges. Due to the life sentence, Murdaugh, 54, was not sentenced for the additional crimes. Murdaugh spoke briefly in court before the sentence was handed down and denied that he had ever hurt his wife or kid.
“I respect this court, but I’m innocent,” Murdaugh told the judge. “I would never under any circumstances hurt my wife Maggie, and I would never under any circumstances hurt my son.”
“And it might not have been you,” Newman responded. “It might have been the monster you become when you take 15, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 opioid pills. Maybe you become another person.”
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Throughout the brief hearing on Friday, the judge and the guilty former attorney had a few verbal exchanges. Murdaugh was once questioned by Newman as to the purpose of the phrase. “tangled web we weave” when he testified in his own defense. “I meant when I lied, I continue to lie,” Murdaugh said.
“And the question is, when will it end, when will it end?” the judge said. “It’s ended already for the jury because they’ve concluded that you continued to lie and lie throughout your testimony.”
Over the course of the trial’s two days of testimony, Murdaugh frequently sobbed as he took the stand and denied the deaths. But, in his testimony, he also admitted to lying to the police, and the prosecution’s evidence showed that he was present at the crime scene the night the killings took place.
Murdaugh had to testify because his credibility had been called into question, defence counsel Dick Harpootlian said reporters following the sentencing “stripped away” when the prosecution’s case might allegedly contain Murdaugh’s financial offenses. Murdaugh, according to the prosecution, committed the murders to win people over before the accusations surfaced.
“There was no choice because he’d been made out to be a monster who stole from children and crippled people and — is crippled not, that’s not a politically correct word? I’m sorry, I’m an old guy — crippled people who had just done horrible, despicable things, and he had to try to push back on that,” Harpootlian said during a press conference. “I mean, if he’d let that lay without taking the stand, he was toast.”
Harpootlian said a notice of intention to appeal will be filed within 10 days. Attorney Jim Griffin said the defense team will appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if they need to.
In an interview with CBS News correspondent Nikki Battiste, Griffin said he believes Murdaugh is innocent. “We believe he has a very strong appeal, and we plan to continue fighting because I for one and I think Dick for another and a lot of people who know him much better than we do believe in his innocence, that he could not have executed his wife and son for any reason, much less the fabricated reason they presented in court,” Griffin said.
No one from Murdaugh’s family, not even his still-living son Buster, spoke to the court on Friday during the sentencing. Griffin informed the media that even if Buster had spoken to the judge, it wouldn’t have mattered.
“We could have had Mother Teresa up there speaking on behalf of Alex at sentencing,” Griffin said. “I mean, he was getting a double life sentence. That was expected.”
Prosecutor Creighton Waters said Murdaugh displayed a lack of remorse for the killings and asked for the judge to impose the maximum punishment of two life sentences.
“This case is about Maggie Murdaugh and Paul Murdaugh, and I’m so thankful that the jurors gave them a voice,” Waters said. As the judge spoke with Murdaugh, he brought up the victims.
“I know you have to see Paul and Maggie during the nighttimes when you’re attempting to go to sleep,” Newman said. “I’m sure they come and visit you.”All day and every night,” Murdaugh responded.
BREAKING: Convicted heartless murderer Alex Murdaugh who gunned down his wife and son, shooting each in the head has just been sentenced to life in prison. The judge blasted him, called him “A MONSTER”, said he and his family had prosecuted many people in the same court, many… https://t.co/UbbMRI6FLd pic.twitter.com/SZI5VJeDXD
— Simon Ateba (@simonateba) March 3, 2023
“They will continue to do so and reflect on the last time they looked you in the eyes as you looked the jury in the eyes,” Newman said.
The court mentioned that Murdaugh had previously prosecuted defendants who had been given the death penalty and that prosecutors had decided not to seek the death penalty in this case. “Probably for lesser conduct,” Newman said.
Attorney General Alan Wilson of South Carolina stated at a news conference on Thursday night that the verdict came after “nearly two years of blood, sweat and tears from a lot of hard-working people.” “Our criminal justice system worked tonight. It gave a voice to Maggie and Paul Murdaugh, who were brutally mowed down by someone they knew and trusted,” Wilson said.
The defence tried to have the verdict overturned and a mistrial declared after it was announced, but Newman rejected the motion, citing the vast quantity of testimony and evidence the jury had to weigh, according to The Associated Press.
“The jury has now considered the evidence for a significant period of time, and the evidence of guilt is overwhelming,” he said.