The Washington Post

Life sentence for Murdaugh in slayings of his wife, son


Alex Murdaugh was sentenced to life in prison on Friday morning, just 15 hours after he was convicted of killing his wife and son in the conclusion of a story of money, power and politics that has captured a worldwide audience.

Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman told Murdaugh, who was found guilty on all four counts in the murders of his wife, Maggie, 52, and son Paul, 22, on June 7, 2021, that he would serve consecutiv­e life sentences without the possibilit­y of parole for the murders.

“Mr. Murdaugh, I sentence you to the State Department of Correction­s on each of the murder indictment­s . . . I sentence you for the term of the rest of your natural life,” Newman said at the courtroom in Walterboro, S.C.

Murdaugh, dressed in a brown inmate jumpsuit, gave a blank look as he exited the courtroom around 10:05 a.m. Before he was

sentenced, he said he did not kill his family members.

“I’m innocent,” Murdaugh said. He then addressed his wife and son, whom he referred to as “Paw Paw.” “I would never hurt my wife, Maggie, and I would never hurt my son, Paw Paw.”

During the sentencing, Newman said that Murdaugh would have to deal with the conviction and consequenc­es of the murders “in your own soul.”

“I know you have to see Paul and Maggie in the night time as you attempt to go to sleep,” Newman said. “I’m sure they come and visit you.”

When Newman asked Murdaugh if he has a hard time sleeping, Murdaugh replied, “All day and every night.”

“And they will continue to do so and will reflect on the last time they looked you in the eyes,” Newman said.

After Murdaugh was led away by sheriff ’s deputies, his defense attorneys confirmed to reporters Friday that they will file a notice of appeal within 10 days. Jim Griffin, one of Murdaugh’s attorneys, said that the process could take months and that Murdaugh’s team would take it to the Supreme Court if necessary.

“There’s a huge federal issue,” Griffin said. “The state asking Alex about why he didn’t come forward and tell law enforcemen­t where he was at the time of the kennel video after he was arrested. . . . U.S. Supreme Court cases are clear that post-arrest silence can’t be used against you. That’s a classic violation of the Fifth Amendment.”

Griffin added, “We feel strongly that if we lose at the state courts, we will have success at the federal court.”

When asked at a brief news conference whether it had been a mistake for Murdaugh to testify, defense attorney Dick Harpootlia­n replied, “No, next question.” Harpootlia­n, a Democratic state senator, said public informatio­n about Murdaugh’s financial misdeeds gave them no choice but to have him testify. Murdaugh still faces 99 charges related to alleged financial crimes that will be tried at a later date.

“He had been made out to be a monster who stole from children and crippled people, who had just done horrible and despicable things,” Harpootlia­n said. “And he tried to push back on that.”

The defense attorneys were also asked why Murdaugh’s surviving son, Buster, didn’t come to the stand during the sentencing hearing to give a statement on his father’s behalf. Harpootlia­n said he did not want Buster to suffer more than he already has.

“We could have had Mother Teresa up there speaking for [Murdaugh] at sentencing,” the attorney said. “He was getting a double life sentence; that was expected.”

No victim impact statements were presented Friday, making for a quick sentencing that was analogous to the swift announceme­nt of the verdict.

The attorneys did not offer a statement but answered several questions, including one about what efforts, if any, Murdaugh was making to find who they claim is “the real killer.”

“It’s not our job to find the real killer,” said Harpootlia­n, who again criticized the South Carolina Law Enforcemen­t Division for how the agency handled the investigat­ion.

The case has drawn massive attention, aided by not only traditiona­l local and national media but also podcasts and docuseries from streaming giants such as Netflix. People around the world now know the Murdaugh name. But that’s been the case for nearly a century in South Carolina’s Lowcountry.

The 54-year-old was once the patriarch of a South Carolina legal dynasty that includes a three-generation run as elected prosecutor­s in the area. Behind the esteemed public image, he was also the selfadmitt­ed creator of a web of financial crimes that bilked millions of dollars from vulnerable clients of his law practice.

The jurors took three hours to deliberate before deeming Murdaugh guilty of killing his wife Maggie and adult son Paul. Juror Craig Moyer told ABC News on Friday that it took the jury only about 45 minutes to reach a unanimous guilty verdict.

Moyer said he was one of the jurors who didn’t buy Murdaugh or his testimony from the start.

“A good liar, but not good enough,” he told ABC.

What pushed the jury toward a unanimous guilty decision, Moyer said, was video evidence in which Murdaugh’s voice is heard moments before the murders. Moyer said he was “certain” he had heard Murdaugh’s voice and that “the evidence was clear.” The juror also accused Murdaugh of not really crying during his testimony.

“All he did was blow snot,” Moyer told “Good Morning America.”

Attorneys representi­ng clients in other cases involving the Murdaugh family celebrated the guilty verdict and sentencing.

Among them was Mark Tinsley, who represents the family of Mallory Beach, the 19-year-old who was killed in a boating collision involving Paul Murdaugh in 2019. Tinsley, who testified during the murder trial, wrote on Facebook that he “was very afraid that what I thought I saw in the faces of those jurors wasn’t what I actually saw when looked them in the eyes.”

“I’m so pleased the jury saw through his lies and got it right,” Tinsley said. “I will forever take comfort in the fact that he will be held to account for what he did. But my heart still breaks for Paul and Maggie, who didn’t deserve this.”

While Newman said on Thursday that he reserved comment about the case, he did not hold back on Friday.

The judge told Alex Murdaugh that his testimony was “not credible, not believable.” At one point, Newman was empathetic toward Murdaugh regarding his opioid addiction and how the drugs could have played a role in the murders.

Murdaugh had testified in the trial that bad land deals and an addiction to opiate pills helped put the family in desperate financial shape. Murdaugh acknowledg­ed his years-long addiction to painkiller­s, saying he sometimes took more than 2,000 milligrams of oxycodone a day in the months leading up to the deaths of his wife and son. (The recommende­d dose for adults with acute pain is 5 to 15 milligrams every four to six hours, according to the National Library of Medicine.)

On Friday, Newman wondered how that addiction affected the crimes.

“It might not have been you. It might have been the monster you become,” Newman said. “When you take 20, 40, 50, 60 opioid pills, maybe you become another person. I’ve seen that before — the person standing before me was not the person who committed the crime, though it’s the same individual. We’ll leave that at that.”

The judge then offered a departing message about the testimony given by the husband, father and former attorney who has seen his life come crashing down in a very public fashion.

“If you made any such argument as a lawyer,” said Newman, “you would lose any case like that.”

 ?? ??
 ?? PHOTOS BY Andrew J. WHITAKER/CHARLESTON POST And COURIER/POOL/ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? ABOVE: Alex Murdaugh in court on Friday in Walterboro, S.C. Murdaugh was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted on Thursday of murdering his wife, Maggie, and son Paul. LEFT: A family photo of Buster, Paul, Maggie and Alex Murdaugh shown in court on Thursday.
PHOTOS BY Andrew J. WHITAKER/CHARLESTON POST And COURIER/POOL/ASSOCIATED PRESS ABOVE: Alex Murdaugh in court on Friday in Walterboro, S.C. Murdaugh was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted on Thursday of murdering his wife, Maggie, and son Paul. LEFT: A family photo of Buster, Paul, Maggie and Alex Murdaugh shown in court on Thursday.

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