COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Alex Murdaugh has been found guilty of murdering his wife and son.
Murdaugh was standing trial for killing his wife Margaret and youngest son Paul at their family property in June of 2021.
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Murdaugh was indicted on two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime on July 14, 2022 – nearly a year after the killings. The indictments came amid a flurry of charges by the state on financial and other crimes.
Despite the indictments, Murdaugh has long maintained his innocence in the deaths of his wife and son and said that he looked forward to clearing his name and hoped the Attorney General would then begin “looking for the actual killer or killers” in the case.
Attorney General Alan Wilson called the verdict a win for the justice system, saying Maggie and Paul’s voices were heard tonight. State Prosecutor Creighton Waters, who tried most of the case for the state, said the verdict is proof that justice will be served in South Carolina.
Defense attorney Jim Griffin gave an emotional closing argument before deliberations started, but it was not enough to sway the jury. Griffin said his team was disappointed by the verdict, but would not comment further until after sentencing.
Sentencing is set to begin at 9:30 a.m. Friday.
ALEX MURDAUGH MURDER TRIAL LIVE BLOG:
7:02 p.m. – The jury is brought in to deliver the verdict.
Murdaugh is found guilty on all charges.
The defense requests an individual poll of the jurors. Each agrees that it was their verdict.
Defense makes a motion for a mistrial based on their previous motion for a directed verdict. Judge Newman denies the motion. He says the evidence of guilt is overwhelming.
Judge Newman addresses Murdaugh directly and reads him the verdicts. Judge Newman says that he will not impose a sentence tonight given the lateness of the hour and the victims’ rights that must be taken into consideration. Sentencing will take place Friday morning.
The minimum sentence for murder is 30 years for each count.
Murdaugh stands and remains stone-faced.
He is placed in handcuffs and escorted from the courtroom.
Judge Newman takes time to thank each of the jurors for their dedication to the case.
6:47 p.m. – Jurors informed the clerk of court at 6:41 p.m. that a verdict had been reached.
6:45 p.m. – Murdaugh’s family is seen returning to the courthouse.
6:35 p.m. – People appear to be gathering at the entrance to the courthouse.
According to a pool report from CourtTV, there is a “moment in the courtroom.” It’s unclear whether the jury has a question or a verdict.
4:33 p.m. – News 2 has learned that there will be a 10:00 p.m. cutoff for deliberations, but sources indicate Judge Newman will likely end things earlier, around 8:00 p.m.
3:45 p.m. – Court is in recess awaiting a verdict.
3:35 p.m. – The jury is sent to the jury room. They are advised not to deliberate until they receive copies of the indictments and instructions.
Once deliberations again, the jury will deliberate until a verdict is reached.
Both the state and defense ask Judge Newman to hold the alternate juror in case one of the jurors on the panel has an issue. Judge Newman asks Murdaugh if he wants the juror to be held. He says yes.
3:03 p.m. – Court resumes. Judge Newman charges the jury.
He explains to the jury what they are tasked with doing, which is evaluating the facts and coming to a verdict based only on the law. He explains to them direct vs circumstantial evidence and says that they are to be given the same weight.
Judge Newman reminds the jury that evidence of other crimes can only be considered for motive; not anything else. He also says that Murdaugh is presumed innocent in those crimes until he is proven guilty.
Judge Newman reads the indictments: one count of murder for Maggie, one count of murder for Paul, one count of possession of a firearm during a violent crime for Maggie, and one count of possession of a firearm during a violent crime for Paul. The jury must reach a verdict on each one alone.
Jurors are not allowed to use technology with any kind of communication abilities during their deliberations. During overnight breaks, they will be allowed to use electronics, but must not send or receive any information about the case.
1:39 p.m. – Court is breaking for lunch and will resume around 3:00 p.m. The jury will be charged and begin deliberations after lunch.
12:41 p.m. – State prosecutor John Meadors thanks the jury for their service and attentiveness over the past six weeks. He thanks the clerk of court for her work throughout the trial as well.
Meadors tells the jurors that they have been preparing for this moment their entire lives. He says their lived experiences make them good judges of credibility and believability.
He says this is a common sense case.
Meadors says the smokescreen that defense is presenting in this case is like an eclipse.
He says that he is offended that a family with this sort of legal dynasty is claiming that law enforcement didn’t do their job while Murdaugh was withholding information and obstructing justice by not admitting he was down at the kennels.
He asks if the jury can imagine lying to law enforcement about that.
Meadors says the case is about two things: being real and choices. He says Murdaugh has never been real.
Meadors says Murdaugh didn’t call Buster until well after the murders. He claims a real dad wouldn’t have told him to come home. He would’ve told him to stay where he was. He also says Murdaugh should’ve told police to get to his mom’s house, but he didn’t because that’s where he hid the guns.
He says the motive might not make sense in the rational minds of the jurors, but it made sense in Murdaugh’s mind.
Maybe there’s a different motive, he says. Maybe Murdaugh got mad at Paul, snapped, and Maggie walked up so he killed her too. He says only one person knows the real motive, and he believes that person is Murdaugh.
Meadors says the state doesn’t even have to prove motive. They just have to prove that the circumstances point toward him doing it.
He reminds jurors that proof beyond a reasonable doubt is not proof beyond all doubt.
Meadors says that Murdaugh hid the guns near the smokehouse at his mother’s house.
He brings up the blue raincoat, which he says Murdaugh brought over to the house early in the morning in the days after the killings. Meadors says Mushell Smith, who testified she saw Murdaugh with a balled-up blue item, is a real, believable, credible, witness.
Meadors says Marian Proctor and Blanca Simpson are real, reliable witnesses.
He says the jury should believe Simpson about the clothes Murdaugh was wearing the night of the murders. Her story indicates he changed clothes after he murdered Maggie and Paul, and she never saw those clothes or shoes again.
Meadors says he also never understood why Murdaugh was worried about having a lawyer around in the immediate aftermath of the murders.
Meadors says Murdaugh washed up after the murders. He points out that first responders that night described him as clean.
Meadors says Murdaugh lied to everyone, including his family, about the most important part of this investigation for 627 days.
The one thing Murdaugh did when he took the stand, according to Meadors, is corroborate that he is a liar.
Meadors says that mistakes happen and people lie, but you don’t mistake whether you were at the scene of your wife and son’s murder, and that is not something an innocent person would lie about.
Meadors says Murdaugh killed them and tried to construct a timeline and alibi, but the timeline is what got him.
He says that you can’t believe a liar about anything other than the fact that they’re a liar.
Meadors says that Paul knew when he was taking the video and that he knew it would come out. He says that was Paul’s testimony.
Meadors says Maggie’s testimony was in the matching shell casings around the family property.
Meadors says the dogs testified. He says that the dogs barked in the video and indicated something was wrong.
Meadors reminds the jurors that Murdaugh is not rational. He points out the roadside shooting wasn’t rational. He says Murdaugh is a chronic liar.
Meadors says that he believes Murdaugh loved Maggie and Paul, but he loved himself more.
He asks the jury to help stop Mudaugh’s lies and find him guilty.
12:26 p.m. – Defense rests. State prosecutor John Meadors will deliver the state’s rebuttal close. He estimates it will take around 40 minutes.
11:12 a.m. – Court resumes.
Griffin brings up Waters’ claim that Paul and Maggie were murdered with family guns. Griffin disputes that. He says it is not a fact. The state ballistics expert testified only that the shotgun shells were fired by the same gun. They don’t know what gun that was.
Regarding the 300-Blackout, the expert found that markings on casings found around Maggie matched tool markings on some shells found around the property. Griffin says that the expert left out a part about significant markings not matching. They also did not take the projectiles found around the property and compare them to projectiles found stuck in the dog house.
Griffin recalls the theory of how the shooting happened. Waters claimed that Murdaugh shot Paul, was putting down the shotgun and picking up the Blackout because he was staging a two-shooter theory, saw Paul emerge, and shot him again in the head. Griffin says that theory is not possible anywhere other than Waters’ imagination.
Griffin brings up a scenario Waters suggested: Paul found drugs and there was a confrontation, Maggie and Paul were “watching Murdaugh like a hawk,” and trying to get him to quit, and he killed them in the depths of withdrawals. Griffin presents what he calls an equally plausible scenario: Paul found drugs, found the source of the drugs, confronted the source, and told them to stop selling drugs to his father or he would turn the source in to law enforcement. Griffin says that the source could’ve been connected to a dangerous drug gang, and members of the gang could’ve killed Paul to shut him up.
Griffin addresses the backlight on Maggie’s phone. He says that the OnStar data shows Murdaugh was driving past the spot where Maggie’s phone was found at 9:08 p.m. He says Maggie’s phone was already on the side of the road at that point. If he had thrown the phone out the window of the car, the backlight would have come on and registered. It did not.
Griffin addresses the HBO interview that Griffin gave for an HBO special. Waters implied Griffin gave the interview in November of 2022, which is when the special aired. Griffin says the interview happened before Murdaugh was even charged with murder, and he takes offense to Waters’ implications.
Griffin asks how Murdaugh could’ve butchered Maggie and Paul without leaving a trace of evidence within a matter of minutes. Griffin says he couldn’t. But he says that is the wrong question. The question is, has the state proven that Murdaugh did? Griffin says they have not.
He reminds the jury that with circumstantial evidence, the circumstances must be consistent with each other and point conclusively to guilt.
Griffin claims the state’s case is predicated upon the idea that the only reason Maggie and Paul would stop using their phones is that they are dead. He implies that perhaps Paul could’ve put his phone down because it was at 2% or because he was hosing out the kennels.
Griffin brings up the activity on Maggie’s phone at 9:04 p.m. Murdaugh called Maggie and the screen immediately went off, which their expert testified meat someone turned the screen off. Griffin suggests maybe Maggie knew there was someone there and didn’t want any sound, or the killers had her phone and wanted to decline the call.
Waters honed in on a period of four minutes before Murdaugh went to his mom’s house that recorded 283 steps. Waters called Murdaugh a busy bee and asked what he was doing during that time. Griffin does the math and says that equates to a slow walk, not scurrying. He also points out that Maggie’s phone does record activity at that time, but no steps. Murdaugh’s phone does record steps during that time, so Griffin says he could not have been walking with Maggie’s phone.
Griffin also points out that Murdaugh has Maggie’s password. If he wanted to manufacture a timeline and alibi, he could’ve replied to his texts and made it seem like she was still alive when he left to go to Alameda.
Griffin also questions why Murdaugh would take her phone and not Paul’s phone.
Griffin entertains the state’s theory that Murdaugh is happy with his family in the kennel video at 8:44 p.m. and then kills them minutes later at 8:49 p.m. At 9:06 p.m., he is in his car leaving Moselle. Griffin says that Murdaugh would have to be a magician to get rid of all the evidence in 17 minutes. He points out that Murdaugh had normal phone conversations with his older son Buster and friends that he has known for years.
He brings up the two-shooter theory. Griffin says the most common-sense explanation is that there were two shooters.
Griffin brings up the “I/they did him so bad” video. Griffin says everyone who knows Murdaugh and heard the tape confirmed that Murdaugh said “they.” Griffin says he’s glad they have the tape because if they didn’t he believes SLED agents would be lying about what he said and the jury wouldn’t be able to decide for themselves.
Waters previously implied that Murdaugh was not concerned for Buster’s safety because he knew he was the threat. Griffin plays body camera video that shows Murdaugh the night of the murders asking Sheriff Buddy Hill to get a police officer to Columbia for Buster.
Griffin addresses Murdaugh’s inconsistencies on time. He says that Murdaugh was bad about time. He was inconsistent. But he always told law enforcement that they could check phone, car, keycard, etc records to get the exact times.
Griffin asks the jury to imagine what Murdaugh saw when he pulled up on the bodies. Murdaugh was inconsistent about whether he called 911 before or after he checked the bodies. Griffin asks if Murdaugh not remembering the exact sequence is evidence he killed them or evidence of trauma.
Griffin circles back to the state’s motive that Murdaugh killed his wife and son to hide financial misdeeds. He says it is illogical. He brings up the guns the state has presented as evidence. The guns have not been proven to be connected to the murders, so Griffin questions why the state would include them as evidence. Just because someone owns guns they should be treated differently? He says the state has failed to meet the burden of proof, the circumstances do not point conclusively to Murdaugh’s guilt, and the verdict must be not guilty.
Griffin says Murdaugh is not the one who has been manipulating the narrative, but the state has. He refers to the bloodspatter, guns, and raincoat.
Griffin gets emotional in closing statements. He says on behalf of Alex, Buster, Maggie, and his friend Paul, he respectfully requests that the jury not add to the family tragedy with a guilty verdict.
10:58 a.m. – Court is taking a 10-minute break.
9:57 a.m. – Defense attorney Jim Griffin begins closing arguments.
He says that the court system in the United States is wonderful in many ways, but he wishes it permitted the jury to ask questions, because he knows they probably have them.
Griffins says that the jurors have been ideal jurors. They have been on time every day, been dedicated, missed work, families, personal obligations, etc. He thanks them and says their sacrifices have not gone unnoticed.
He says that jurors are asked to perform an unnatural task: presume the defendant innocent when he has already been indicted. He says it is natural to trust that law enforcement investigates properly and arrests the right person.
Griffin says it’s hard to presume innocents, but he gives the analogy of an instant replay in sports. He says the call on the field stands unless the instant replay provides evidence against it.
He says jurors are not being asked to provide an opinion, but to uphold the bedrock principles of the Constitution, which he says protects us all from the government. Those are the presumption of innocence and proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Griffin says that if the proof that the state has presented causes any hesitation, jurors are obligated to find Murdaugh not guilty. He says this is likely one of the most consequential decisions they will make in their lives.
Griffin says proof beyond a reasonable doubt is the highest standard of the law and that the scale of justice must be tipped all the way in favor of the prosecution in order for the jury to find Murdaugh guilty.
Importantly, Griffin informs the jury that they don’t have to find Murdaugh fully innocent, but if they do not think the state has fully proven the burden of proof, they must find him not guilty. In some countries, juries are given three options: guilty, not guilty, and not proven. In America, the last two options are combined.
Griffin goes on to June 7, 2021. He says it’s fair that Murdaugh was considered a suspect. He found the victims, called 911, was in the immediate family, and was holding a shotgun when the police showed up. What he doesn’t find fair is that by the morning of June 8, SLED and the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement saying there was no threat to the public. Griffin says it seems that the agencies has already decided Murdaugh was guilty.
From that point forward, Murdaugh was at the mercy of SLED to exclude him from the circle. Griffin says the defense has proven that SLED did a horrible job investigating the crime. Had SLED done their job properly, Griffin believes Murdaugh would’ve been excluded from the circle long ago.
Griffin points out shortcomings in the immediate aftermath and over the course of the investigation that several witnesses admitted during testimony.
He references the failure to properly secure the crime scene the night of the murders, the failure to properly investigate tire tracks, the failure to analyze any clothes other than Murdaughs, the failure to properly secure Maggie’s phone, etc.
Griffin says that whoever killed Maggie threw her phone on the side of the road. Everyone agrees on that. He says that Murdaugh said from the beginning that his and Maggie’s phones would show he was not the killer. Griffin says Murdaugh constantly pressured SLED to get the data from his phone and his car, which he believed would be exculpatory. Griffin says SLED emailed someone at General Motors and asked for the OnStar data. They got a response saying GM didn’t have the data and never followed up or put any pressure for further investigation. It wasn’t until the trial began that (he believes) someone watching at GM saw that they were looking for the data that the data came in.
Griffin says that if Maggie’s phone had been properly secured in a Faraday Bag, it likely would’ve had GPS data from the day of the murders.
He says that the roadside shooting and exposure of Murdaugh’s financial crimes made him an easy target. From that point forward, Griffin says the state began fabricating evidence against Murdaugh. Griffin says he knows that is a heavy accusation and he doesn’t take it lightly.
Griffin says that the state fabricated evidence about bloodspatter on Murdaugh’s clothing. The state claimed they found evidence of high-velocity bloodspatter from Paul’s shooting on Murdaugh’s shirt. SLED tested the shirt twice and found no evidence of blood. He brings up the Bevel report and says SLED “pursued with a vengeance” evidence of bloodspatter on the shirt.
Griffin points out that the Grand Jury who issued the indictment against Murdaugh was told an expert provided a report confirming high-velocity bloodspatter. The lead agent on the case, David Owen, admitted that he was sent a report saying there was no bloodspatter on the shirt, but he didn’t see the email.
The state then pivoted their theory trying to convince the jury that Murdaugh rinsed off at the kennels and drove “butt-naked in the golf cart,” as Griffin says, back to the house.
He moves on to the blue raincoat. He says it was found months later at Murdaugh’s parent’s house. No one recognizes the jacket and no one can tie it back to Murdaugh.
Griffin discusses the ammunition used in Maggie and Paul’s killings. Griffin says that Owen lied to Murdaugh about matching ammunition to family weapons, which he admitted to on the stand. Owen said he was allowed to use trickery to elicit a response. Griffin pointed out that Owen also lied to the grand jury about the matching ballistics. He asked Owen if that was just a mistake. Owen admitted it was not.
Griffin says Murdaugh also lied. He lied about being down at the kennels. Griffin admits it was a stupid lie and Murdaugh probably wouldn’t be sitting there if he hadn’t lied about the kennels. Griffin says Murdaugh lied because he was an addict and because he had skeletons in his closet he didn’t want to be exposed. But he says the state’s theory that Murdaugh killed his wife and son — putting himself at the center of a murder investigation and a media firestorm — as a distraction is nonsensical.
Griffin plays the kennel video. He says that the state is asking the jury to believe that four minutes after that video in which everyone sounds normal and happy, Murdaugh blew his son’s brains out and executed his wife. He says that there is nothing on the tape that indicates any conflict.
Griffin says that there have been a lot of witnesses. He says every witness that took the stand testified that Murdaugh had a wonderful relationship with Maggie and Paul. He plays clips from Blanca Simpson and Dale Davis, who he describes as authentic witnesses. Simpson and Davis both described Murdaugh’s relationship with his family as loving.
He asks why Murdaugh would kill his wife and son. He says the state’s theory is that Murdaugh was about to be exposed for financial crimes, so he slaughtered his wife and son. The state’s theory is that it worked, because it bought him about a month before his crimes were exposed. Griffin asks the jurors to use their common sense and decided if that is a proportional outcome. He says if the burden is proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the verdict has to be not guilty.
Griffin brings up the financial crimes. He says that the evidence was only permitted in the case for the jury to consider whether it is a sufficient motive for Murdaugh to kill his wife and son. Jurors are not allowed to consider that evidence in the context of “if Murdaugh could steal all this money, he could kill his wife and son.”
According to Griffin, there was no impending financial doom on June 7 as the state suggests. He says it was a typical day in the frenetic life of Murdaugh. Griffin says Murdaugh always had a lot of balls in the air and was chaotic.
Griffin says the state’s theory that Murdaugh killed Maggie and Paul to get out of financial crimes is fabricated and that there is no evidence to support it.
Regarding the motions hearing on the boat case, Griffin says that the hearing had been postponed twice before. He points out that Murdaugh didn’t go slaughter his family the other two times it was coming up to distract.
Griffin says even if Murdaugh was facing some sort of financial reckoning, he wouldn’t kill his family. There is no evidence of that. We do have evidence of what Murdaugh would do when he is facing financial ruin, and that is the roadside shooting: hurt himself.
9:39 a.m. – Court is in session. Judge Clifton Newman announces that juror number 785 will be removed due to improper conduct.
He says that the juror had inappropriate contact with at least three individuals and offered her opinion on evidence that had been presented so far.
Those individuals were brought in and interviewed and a hearing was held in chambers.
To preserve the integrity of the case, Judge Newman says the juror will be removed and replaced.
Defense attorney Dick Harpootlian points out that the people who conducted the interviews were SLED agents, one of whom is a witness in the case and another who was an investigating agent. He says it is another example of the calamity of issues SLED has had.
Judge Newman says that he understands given the length of the trial and the attention the case is getting, he understands it is hard to not have some exposure outside the courtroom and tempting to engage in conversations. However, he says that is not allowed.
Judge Newman brings the juror out before the court and dismisses her. He says that she has been by all accounts a great juror, has smiled consistently, and has been seemingly invested in the case. He says that he is not suggesting that she intentionally did everything wrong, but tells her that she must be dismissed to preserve the integrity of the case.
He asks the juror if she has left anything in the jury room. The juror says she left her purse, a bottle of water, and a dozen eggs. She says that a bunch of the jurors wanted eggs, so she brought eggs. Judge Newman asks if she wants to leave the eggs. She says she is going to take them.
Judge Newman encourages her not to speak publicly until after the trial but says she has a right to if she wishes.
Juror number 254, one of two remaining alternates, is selected to replace the dismissed juror.
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