Alex Murdaugh sentenced to life in prison

Published: Mar. 3, 2023 at 10:08 AM EST|Updated: Mar. 3, 2023 at 5:28 PM EST
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COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WTOC) - Alex Murdaugh has been sentenced to life in prison for murdering his wife and son.

The jury found Murdaugh guilty of murdering his wife, Maggie, and son, Paul, in June of 2021. Murdaugh was charged with two counts of murder and two weapons charges. He was found guilty on all four counts.

Judge Clifton Newman sentenced Murdaugh to two life sentences - one for each murder charge. The judge said the jury’s decision was overwhelmingly supported by the evidence, thus leading to Murdaugh receiving the maximum sentence he could.

During the sentence hearing, Alex Murdaugh addressed the court to say he was innocent.

“I would never hurt my wife Maggie, and I would never hurt my son Paul Paul,” he said.

Murdaugh’s trial began on Jan. 23. It took around six weeks to get through opening statements, testimony, a trip to Moselle for jurors to see where the killings took place, and to finish closing arguments.

“I believed in my heart that people all over the country and especially this area of South Carolina wanted this conviction because they wanted to believe. They wanted to have faith in our criminal justice system, they wanted to believe that there are some people that are above the law because I’ve heard that so often for so long. People have said oh he won’t get convicted because of who he is or what his last name is, and that’s why I feel like we needed this conviction because we wanted to send a signal to everyone in South Carolina that nobody is above the law,” South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said.

After sentencing, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel said he wanted to speak publicly about the case so that he could give a voice Maggie and Paul.

Keel said his agents have come under constant scrutiny and pressure throughout this investigation. He said he’s remained silent until now to ensure Murdaugh had a fair trial.

Keel also acknowledged what he calls the heart-wrenching journey that friends and family of Maggie and Paul have endured throughout this case. He said throughout Thursday night and this sentencing, justice has been served.

“SLED agents have worked tirelessly for the past 21 months to ensure justice was served for Maggie and Paul,” Keel said.

As they did throughout the trial, Murdaugh’s attorneys criticized SLED’s investigation of the murders; aiming to poke holes in the forensic evidence in this case.

“They did not – one of the things we complained about was that Maggie’s phone would’ve had all the GPS data on it had they processed it within five days. Because they didn’t, the GPS data got overwritten. I mean it was just one – which would’ve been helpful to Alex. Fingerprints, footprints, all kinds of forensic things that weren’t done,” defense attorney Dick Harpootlian said.

Although the state and defense disagree on most everything in this trial, both sides focused much of their attention on the same moment. The lead prosecutor explained to WTOC what was going through his mind when Alex Murdaugh took the stand.

“I always felt like Alex was going to testify, I felt like he couldn’t resist and obviously I was looking forward to that cross examination which is a different type of cross examination. I think if you had approached that I think as you normally approach a cross examination where you try to dominate the conversation too much, it would not have been successful. I wanted to get him talking, I wanted to keep him talking because I knew he would look at that jury confident in his ability to lie to them and get them to believe him, and I believed we could get them to see through that,” prosecutor Creighton Waters said.

“Should he take the stand? Well, we debated that, he always wanted to take the stand but once that information was in, he had to take the stand,” Harpootlian said.

Waters cross-examined Murdaugh for almost eight hours, something he says he was looking forward to, with one exchange sticking out to him.

“I think that that was a seminal moment, and it feels pretty good when you set that up and you’re waiting and you don’t want to go too soon and then boom you hit, and it doesn’t really matter what he answers… the point’s made,” Waters said.


Murdaugh’s attorneys were asked for their thoughts on Alex’s double-life sentence and why they did not have anyone speak in support of him during sentencing.

“We could’ve had Mother Theresa up there speaking on behalf of Alex in sentencing. He was getting a double-life sentence,” defense attorney Jim Griffin said.

The defense says this case was over when the judge allowed the prosecution to bring in financial crimes evidence, saying they believe it will be their best grounds for an appeal moving forward. As for the timeline on that appeal, Griffin said it will happen in the next 10 days.

Murdaugh’s attorneys spoke about the defendant’s family and how they feel after the trial.

“After six weeks of trial, they came away more convinced that he did not do this,” Harpootlian said.

Find a complete timeline of the Murdaugh case below:

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