Disgraced ex-lawyer Alex Murdaugh sentenced to life in prison


Alex Murdaugh attends a sentencing hearing on Friday, March 3. (Pool)

Disgraced former lawyer Alex Murdaugh has been sentenced to life in prison, a day after being convicted of murdering his wife and son.

Judge Clifton Newman gave Murdaugh two life sentences at a hearing in Walterboro, South Carolina. They will be served consecutively.

Mr Newman called the case “one of the most troubling” he had seen.

Murdaugh spoke briefly in court twice, to maintain his innocence.

The jury deliberated for less than three hours on Thursday before convicting Murdaugh, 54, of two counts of murder after a six-week trial.

His lawyers have said they will appeal the sentence within 10 days.

Murdaugh’s wife, Maggie, 52, and son Paul, 22, were shot at close range on their family estate on 7 June 2021.

Disgraced ex-lawyer Alex Murdaugh sentenced to life in prison
Margaret and Paul Murdaugh

Alex Murdaugh headed a legal dynasty that for decades had occupied a powerful place – the jurisdiction was described by some as “Murdaugh Country”.

This privilege – and Murdaugh’s new position on the other side of the criminal justice system – was brought up by the judge at sentencing.

“It was especially heart-breaking for me to see you go in the media from being a grieving father who lost a wife and a son to being the person indicted and convicted of killing them,” Judge Newman said.

“You’ve engaged in such duplicitous conduct here in the courtroom, here on the witness stand,” he added. “You continued to lie and lie throughout your testimony.”

During the trial, investigators revealed how Murdaugh stole nearly $9m from clients, to fund an addiction to painkillers and a lavish lifestyle.

Prosecutors argued he killed his wife and son to divert attention from his financial crimes and gain sympathy.

The packed court fell silent as Judge Newman began sentencing proceedings.

Murdaugh’s surviving son, Buster Murdaugh, dressed in a simple navy-blue blazer, sat still and silent throughout the proceedings – even as the judge sentenced his father to two consecutive life sentences.

The judge suggested the murders may have been carried out under the influence of the drugs.

“It might not have been you, but it may have been the monster you became when you took those pills.”

Lead prosecutor Creighton Waters argued the evidence against the South Carolina lawyer was “overwhelming” and showed him to be a “cunning, manipulative man who placed himself above all others, including his family”.

Murdaugh, meanwhile, restated his claim that he was not guilty.

“I would never hurt my wife and I would never hurt my son,” he said in brief remarks at the hearing. He stared ahead and did not react as his sentence was read.

A video filmed by Paul Murdaugh just minutes before he was shot featured the voice of his father in the background, dramatically contradicting his claim he was not there at the time.

A juror who convicted him told ABC News that was the moment he began to suspect the defendant was guilty.

During a news conference after the sentence was handed down, Murdaugh’s lawyers said they did not believe it was a mistake for him to take the stand during the trial. They called Judge Newman’s decision to allow evidence related to Murdaugh’s financial crimes to be included in the murder trial “erroneous”.

The state’s case “was about character, not about motive”, defence attorney Dick Harpootlian, said. Murdaugh had been cast as a “despicable human being”, he said.

The high-profile case has captured national attention and sparked true crime podcasts and documentaries.

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