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Alex Murdaugh sentencing live updates: Disgraced SC attorney gets life in prison

ABC News

(WALTERBORO, S.C.) — Disgraced South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh was sentenced Friday to life in prison after being convicted of murdering his wife and their youngest son.

Margaret “Maggie” Murdaugh, 52, and Paul Murdaugh, 22, were found dead from multiple gunshot wounds near the dog kennels at the family’s estate in June 2021, authorities said.

Alex Murdaugh, 54, was found guilty Thursday on all charges — two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a weapon in the commitment of a violent crime.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Mar 03, 12:38 PM EST
Defense stands by putting Murdaugh on stand

Defense attorney Jim Griffin said Alex Murdaugh’s surviving son, Buster, speaking on his father’s behalf at Friday’s sentencing hearing would not have made a difference in the sentence, and only would have put Buster through more trauma.

Defense attorney Dick Harpootlian stood by putting Alex Murdaugh on the stand during the trial.

“There was no choice, because he had been made out to be a monster … he had to try to push back on that,” Harpootlian said. “Without taking the stand, he was toast.”

“He had to take the stand to explain the video,” he said, referring to the cellphone video placing Murdaugh at the scene minutes before the murders.

Harpootlian said he wouldn’t change anything about how the defense presented its case.

Harpootlian said the prosecution focused on Alex Murdaugh’s character, casting him as a thief and a liar.

“This jury had to think he was a despicable human being and not to be believed. So it was about character, wasn’t about motive,” he said.

Harpootlian said the defense will file an appeal in 10 days.

Mar 03, 10:12 AM EST
’You have to see Paul and Maggie during the night,’ judge says

Before imposing the sentence of life in prison, Judge Clifton Newman said, “This has been perhaps one of the most troubling cases, not just for me as a judge, for the state, for the defense team, but for all of the citizens in this community, all citizens in this state.”

“A person from a respected family who has controlled justice in this community for over a century. A person whose grandfather’s portrait hanging at the back of the courthouse that I had to have ordered removed in order to ensure that a fair trial was held by both the state and the defense,” he said.

To the convicted attorney, Newman said, “As a member of the legal community and a well-known member of the legal community, you’ve practiced law before me, and we’ve seen each other at various occasions throughout the years. And that was especially heartbreaking 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.”

“I know you have to see Paul and Maggie during the night when you are attempting to go to sleep,” the judge said. “I’m sure they come and visit you.”

“This case qualifies under our death penalty statute,” the judge said. “I don’t question at all the decision of the state not to pursue the death penalty. But as I sit here in this courtroom and look around the many portraits of judges and other court officials, and reflect on the fact that over the past century, your family, including you, have been prosecuting people here in this courtroom, and many have received the death penalty, probably for lesser conduct. … The question is, when will it end? When will it end? And it’s ended already for the jury, because they’ve concluded that you continue to lie and lied throughout your testimony.”

Mar 03, 10:10 AM EST
Alex Murdaugh gets life in prison

Alex Murdaugh was sentenced Friday to life in prison after being convicted of murdering his wife and their youngest son.

Before the judge imposed the sentence, Murdaugh said, “I’ll tell you again. I respect this court. But I am innocent, and I would never under any circumstances hurt my wife, Maggie, and I would never under any circumstances hurt my son, Paul.”

Mar 03, 10:03 AM EST
Prosecutor asks for consecutive life sentences

Before the sentence was announced, prosecutor Creighton Waters asked the judge to impose a maximum of consecutive life sentences.

Waters called Alex Murdaugh “a cunning manipulator, a man who placed himself above all others, including his family, a man who violated the trust of so many, including his friends, his family, his partners, his profession. But most of all, Maggie and Paul.”

“Both of them, like everyone else, was unaware of who he really was,” he said.

“I’ve looked at his eyes. And he liked to stare me down as he would walk by me during this trial. And I could see the real Alex Murdaugh when he looked at me,” Waters said. “The depravity, the callousness, the selfishness of these crimes are stunning. The lack of remorse and the effortless way in which he lies, including here sitting right over there, in this witness stand. Your honor, a man like that, a man like this man, should never be allowed to be among free, law-abiding citizens again.”

Mar 03, 9:56 AM EST
‘I’m innocent’

Alex Murdaugh gave a brief statement to the judge before sentencing, saying, “I’m innocent. I would never hurt my wife, Maggie, and I would never hurt my son, Paw-Paw.”

Mar 03, 9:29 AM EST
South Carolina attorney general speaks out ahead of sentencing

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said he hopes no one forgets the victims at the center of Alex Murdaugh’s trial, even as the case became “sensational” and “grabbed the attention of the world.”

“At the end of the day, two people were brutally murdered, they lost their lives, a family was destroyed, a legacy was torn asunder and there’s been a wake of victims going back decades, and we want to put the attention on them and let them know that their voice can be heard,” Wilson told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos in an interview Friday on Good Morning America.

Wilson said the disgraced lawyer has “been weaving a tangled web of lies for decades,” which the South Carolina attorney general said was evident when Murdaugh took the stand to testify in his own trial, after cellphone video had placed him at the scene minutes before the crime occurred.

“For so long, he’s been able to manipulate people and bend them to his will because he’s so good at what he does,” Wilson said. “He was a master at manipulating and communicating with juries and I believe when he took the stand, that was his last closing argument. He had done this for so long, he believed that he could get what he wanted out of this jury. And I think when he took the stand, he confirmed for many of those jurors what they had heard in that video — that he was a liar.”

Wilson said he was “pleasantly surprised” when he learned that the jury had returned a verdict in less than three hours and hoped it was a good sign.

“I didn’t know what to think,” he recalled. “I respect the process too much to be that confident, but I was guardedly optimistic when they came back as quickly as they did.”

Wilson said the guilty verdict sends a message to those “who question the criminal justice system” and who think “it doesn’t apply fairly and equally to all people.”

“We are here to say that it does, that no one is above the law in South Carolina and when you brutally murder your wife and son, you will be held accountable no matter who you are,” he added.

The South Carolina attorney general thanked the authorities, investigators and prosecutors behind the case, saying: “They made this conviction possible.”

Mar 03, 8:16 AM EST
ABC News chief legal analyst talks trial, sentencing

ABC News chief legal analyst Dan Abrams said he expects Alex Murdaugh will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, since prosecutors have said they will not seek the death penalty.

“I’m not expecting there to be much debate,” Abrams said Friday on Good Morning America.

“He’s now in a tough spot, because he can’t really now accept responsibility just after testifying for all these days and talking about how he didn’t do it,” Abrams noted. “What he could say is similar to what he said on the stand, which is: I regret, I did bad things to people, I’m sorry about that, I hurt people that I cared about, with sort of these broad allusions to the financial crimes without actually admitting anything with regard to the murders.”

Abrams said he thinks it was a mistake on the defense team’s part for Murdaugh to testify.

“To some degree, you could argue he had to take the stand,” he explained. “Suddenly, there’s evidence that he’s there at the crime scene despite the fact that he’s saying he wasn’t there.”

“So now it doesn’t have to be him per se, but somebody’s got to explain what he was doing there minutes before the crime occurs,” he continued. “In retrospect, was it a mistake? Sure, because if he hadn’t taken the stand, he might’ve been better off. I said at the time I thought it was a mistake for him to take the stand. But they did have to do something to explain why his voice was clearly there at the crime scene minutes before Maggie and Paul were killed.”

Mar 03, 7:53 AM EST
Lead prosecutor discusses what made the case so ‘compelling’

Lead prosecutor Creighton Waters said he believes Alex Murdaugh’s lie about being at the scene of the crime just minutes before his wife and son were murdered was part of what made such a “compelling” case against him.

“It’s not just being a liar. In this case, it was him being a liar about being at the scene with the victims just minutes before their cellphones went silent forever,” Waters told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos in an interview Friday on Good Morning America.

“I made the argument to the jury and the team did — this was obviously a team effort — that, you know, what kind of reasonable father or husband would lie to law enforcement about such a crucial fact in that moment, and only one who really knew what had happened?” he said. “When you lie about being at the scene with the victims just minutes before the crime happened, that’s pretty compelling evidence.”

Waters said he thinks the cellphone video placing Murdaugh at the scene minutes before the crime “absolutely” made a difference in guilty verdict.

“That was something that the defendant could never account for and I think, though, he was still hoping that that evidence wouldn’t be as strong as it was,” Waters noted. “He initially claimed — because there was one young man who thought he heard him on the phone and he said, well, he’s got to be mistaken. I think he thought he could get around that.”

“But as we continued to put up family and friends, people who were very close to him, none of whom knew who he really was, it became very compelling,” Waters said. “And I think that’s what motivated him to try to take the stand and see if he could give one last closing argument to these jurors.”

The lead prosecutor said he was not surprised when Murdaugh decided to testify.

“I thought that he would do it all along,” he added. “In this community, he’s been able to talk his way out of accountability his entire life and people like that are convinced in their own ability to do so.”

When cross-examining Murdaugh, the prosecution team’s strategy was to “establish who he was,” according to Waters.

“I thought it was very interesting that he would not even concede to these jurors that he was wealthy,” Waters said. “And that was sort of the idea, was to get him talking about himself and about his life but then to, first of all, hammer home the financial aspects of this case and the many lies that he had told to people that trusted him and then move into the specifics of his new story that he was now telling the world for the first time, at least publicly. And I think that’s very compelling and ultimately was convincing to the jury.”

When asked about the jury only taking three hours to reach a verdict, Waters said: “We presented a very compelling and strong case, and I think that it didn’t take them long to figure this out.”

“They looked him in his eyes, as much as I’ve had the chance to do, and realized who this person really was.” he added. “And I think that really was the final thing that led this jury to come to the right conclusion.”

Waters said he hopes to see a “just sentence from the judge” on Friday morning.

“I do think that, in the end, we will have a just result for Maggie and Paul, who again we cannot forget in all of this,” he said. “That’s what this is really about and, thankfully, they had a voice yesterday when the jurors spoke.”

Mar 03, 6:00 AM EST
ABC News exclusive: Juror says cellphone video sealed Murdaugh’s fate

A juror who convicted Alex Murdaugh on Thursday told ABC News in an exclusive interview that the piece of evidence which convinced him the disgraced lawyer was guilty, was the cellphone video placing him at the scene minutes before the murders of his wife and youngest son.

“I was certain it was [Murdaugh’s] voice,” Craig Moyer, a carpenter, said as he recalled the background voice he heard during his first watch of the video captured by Murdaugh’s son. The video was taken at the family’s dog kennels by Paul Murdaugh, 22, who later that night was brutally murdered along with his mother Margaret, 52.

“Everybody else could hear [Murdaugh’s voice] too,” Moyer said, referring to the other jurors.

Moyer’s comments to ABC News’ Eva Pilgrim came just hours after he voted to convict Murdaugh, concluding the small-town South Carolina saga which documented the downfall of a powerful attorney from a family which for generations exuded power over the state’s Lowcountry region.

After nearly three hours of deliberations, a jury reached a guilty verdict Thursday in the double murder trial Alex Murdaugh, a disgraced South Carolina attorney who was charged with the murders of his wife and their younger son at their rural hunting estate in June 2021.

The bodies of Margaret “Maggie” Murdaugh, 52, and Paul Murdaugh, 22, were found dead from multiple gunshot wounds near the dog kennels at the family’s estate in June 2021, authorities said. Alex Murdaugh, 54, who called 911 to report the discovery, was charged with their murders 13 months later.

Jurors — and the packed gallery — heard testimony from dozens of witnesses since the trial started on Jan. 23 in the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina.

A string of bloody killings and mysteries involving a prominent South Carolina family has been filled with a wild chase full of twists and turns — culminating in a murder conviction against the family’s patriarch.

At the center of it is Alex Murdaugh, 54, a former lawyer who comes from a legacy of prominent attorneys in South Carolina, where three generations of the family had been state prosecutors in the Hampton County area for more than a century.

The saga began when his youngest son, Paul, was involved in a fatal boat crash in 2019. A year and a half later, Murdaugh’s wife, Margaret “Maggie” Murdaugh, 52, and Paul, 22, were found fatally shot on the family’s rural hunting estate.

Since then, there have been curveballs in the investigation — including Alex Murdaugh’s alleged money misuse that led to his disbarment, an admitted opioid addiction, an assisted-suicide attempt involving an alleged $10 million insurance fraud scheme and a high-profile murder trial.

Here’s a timeline of the key events in the Murdaugh murders and scandals.

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