As expected, convicted killer Alex Murdaugh was sentenced to two consecutive life terms in prison for the murders of his wife and younger son nearly two years ago on his family compound near Islandton, S.C.
“You’ve engaged in such duplicitous conduct – including here in the courtroom and on the witness stand,” S.C. circuit court judge Clifton Newman said in sentencing the 54-year-old disbarred attorney. “It was especially heartbreaking for me to see you go from being a grieving father to being the person indicted and convicted (for these murders).”
Murdaugh was found guilty on Thursday evening of the savage slayings of his wife, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh, and younger son, 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh on June 7, 2021 at Moselle – the family’s 1,700-acre hunting property straddling the Salkehatchie River on the border of Colleton and Hampton counties.
The jury began its deliberations at 3:50 p.m. EST on Thursday and the verdicts were read by Colleton County clerk of court Becky Hill just after 7:07 p.m. EST. Reports indicate jurors took less than an hour to come to their final verdict, though.
(Click to view)
Of interest? The road to a guilty verdict was paved by a decision Thursday morning by judge Newman to remove a juror for improperly discussing the case. That particular juror was a hard “not guilty,” according to multiple sources familiar with the deliberations. Had she remained on the panel she would have likely prevented a unanimous guilty verdict.
Our sources also indicated a Wednesday morning field trip to the scene of the crime – which was requested by the defense – actually solidified the ‘guilty’ votes on the jury and may have swayed one or two jurors who were previously undecided. That decision clearly backfired.
In recommending the maximum sentence for Murdaugh, lead prosecutor Creighton Waters told Newman the convicted killer was “a cunning manipulator who placed himself above all others – including his family.”
“I’ve looked in his eyes,” he said. “He liked to stare me down. And I could see the real Alex Murdaugh.”
“I’m innocent,” Murdaugh told Newman when offered the opportunity to speak. “I would never hurt my wife, Maggie. I would never hurt my son, Paul Paul.”
At one point during the sentencing, Newman engaged Murdaugh directly.
“Remind me of what you said on the stand?” he asked, referring to Murdaugh’s invocation of Sir Walter Scott‘s famous quote: ‘Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”
“What did you mean by that?” Newman asked Murdaugh.
“I meant that when I lied I continued to lie,” Murdaugh responded.
“The question is when will it end?” Newman asked.
In an especially chilling moment, Newman suggested Murdaugh’s dreams would be haunted by his victims in the future “when he tried to sleep.”
“I am sure they will come and visit you,” Newman said.
“All day and every day,” Murdaugh responded.
“I’m sure they will continue to do so,” Newman said.
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Prior to the final adjournment of the trial, Murdaugh’s attorneys raised the issue of the purportedly accidental dissemination of autopsy photos – which were shown briefly during Court TV‘s feed of the proceedings.
“The parties have requested an investigation into that,” Newman said, adding that his “hands were full” with a backlog of work and that he would defer to law enforcement as to whether to initiate an inquiry.
“To the extent law enforcement wishes to investigate that, they can,” Newman said.
“They will,” Harpootlian fired back.
And with that final volley, the judge raised his gavel for the first (and only) time during the six week trial and declared “our business in Colleton County is done” – formally concluding the Palmetto State’s ‘Trial of the Century.’
After the trial concluded, there was a flurry of activity outside the courthouse as attorneys for Murdaugh – led by Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin – announced their intention to file a notice of appeal within ten days. Among the likely issues to be raised? A comment made by assistant attorney general John Meadors during his passionate rebuttal argument about how the state did not have to prove motive.
“We think the appellate courts will take a strong look at that,” Griffin said.
“It was about character, it was not about motive,” Harpootlian added, saying the case was essentially lost the moment Newman agreed to the “admission of all the financial crimes.”
“The judge was misled,” Harpootlian said.
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Harpootlian also blasted agents of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) – saying the agency needed to “do some serious self-examination on the forensic front.”
“If they’d taken fingerprints, preserved footprints, gathered GPS data from Maggie’s phone … and not misrepresented to the grand jury that he had blood on his shirt,” Harpootlian said, referring to SLED’s investigation as a “comedy of errors.”
Asked about Newman’s comments to Murdaugh earlier in the day, Harpootlian said the judge was “entitled to his opinion.”
To view the full press conference, click here.
Attorney Eric Bland – who represented several of Murdaugh’s financial victims – called the defense’s press gaggle outside the courthouse as “the most tone deaf press conference I’ve ever heard.”
“Jim Griffin’s got a career to think about,” Bland told me. “You just can’t thumb your nose and show no contrition.”
Harpootlian and Griffin made it clear they intend to pursue Murdaugh’s appellate options through the state court of appeals, the state supreme court and the U.S. supreme court, if necessary.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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