Alex Murdaugh trial: Jury begins deliberations

After hearing weeks of testimony, jurors began deliberations Thursday in the double murder trial of Alex Murdaugh, the disgraced South Carolina attorney accused of shooting his wife and son to death in 2021.

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Jurors got the case around 3:40 p.m. EST after hearing final arguments from defense attorneys and prosecutors. If convicted, Murdaugh could face a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Over the course of six weeks, jurors heard from dozens of witnesses about the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Murdaugh’s wife, 52-year-old Margaret “Maggie” Murdaugh, and his son, 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh. On the night of June 7, 2021, Murdaugh called 911 after he said he found the pair shot dead near the dog kennels at the family’s home in Colleton County.

Authorities subsequently arrested Murdaugh on murder and other charges.

Prosecutors said he killed his wife and son to gain sympathy as he coped with mounting pressures stemming from the family’s financial debt and a deadly 2019 boat crash that led to charges against Paul Murdaugh. In his closing statements, prosecutor Creighton Waters described Murdaugh as “a middle-aged man who is outwardly successful, who has a strong family legacy, who has a prominence in the community and has a reputation, but who is living a lie.”

“It leads to pressures that can be overwhelming,” he said.

During his trial, Murdaugh admitted to stealing millions of dollars from his clients to feed his longtime prescription pill addiction and support his family’s wealthy lifestyle. He also admitted to lying to investigators about his whereabouts on the day his wife and son were killed, a decision he blamed on paranoia caused by his addiction.

Prosecutors portrayed Murdaugh as a skillful liar who worked to craft an alibi to shield himself from blame in Maggie and Paul’s deaths. Waters on Wednesday urged jurors, “Don’t let him fool you too.”

“There is only one person who had the motive, who had the means, who had the opportunity to commit these crimes, and also whose guilty conduct after these crimes betrays him,” the prosecutor said.

Jim Griffin, an attorney for Murdaugh, argued during his closing statement that prosecutors quickly homed in on Murdaugh as the prime suspect in his wife and son’s deaths. He accused authorities of failing to fully investigate the killings, pointing to strands of hair that had been found in Maggie’s hands and which had not apparently been tested, among other things.

“(Investigators) had decided that ‘unless we find someone else, it’s going to be Alex,’” he said.

The attorney said the motive presented by prosecutors made no sense and asked the jury to “just collectively think, individually think — what kind of sense does that make?”

Griffin also emphasized that Murdaugh lied “because that’s what addicts do. Addicts lie.”

“He lied because he had a closet full of skeletons (and) he didn’t want any more … scrutiny on him, which is the most ironic thing in the world because … their theory is that he slaughtered his wife and son to distract from an impending financial investigation,” Griffin said. “(Instead) he puts himself in the middle of a murder investigation and he puts himself in the spotlight of a media firestorm.”

Murdaugh’s trial began Jan. 25. The former attorney is also facing nearly 100 other charges related to his theft from clients and an alleged attempt to arrange for another man to shoot and kill him to allow his surviving son to collect a $10 million life insurance policy.

Murdaugh family members have served for decades s elected prosecutors in southwest South Carolina. Murdaugh previously served as a part-time prosecutor for the state’s five-county 14th Judicial Court. He also worked for a personal injury attorney at his family’s prominent law firm.

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