The son of a prominent lawyer found guilty of killing his own family “solved his own murder” with a video he recorded before being shot dead.
Paul Murdaugh inadvertently placed his father Alex Murdaugh at the scene of the crime shortly before he and his mother were killed, despite Mr Murdaugh’s repeated claims that he was not there.
“In the end… it was the victim, Paul Murdaugh, who solved his own murder,” Dave Aronberg, state attorney for Florida’s Palm Beach County, told CNN on Thursday night.
Mr Murdaugh, a prominent lawyer, was found guilty of murdering his wife and son on Thursday following a trial that gripped America for weeks.
The 54-year-old, the scion of an elite legal family in South Carolina, showed no emotion as a jury found him guilty of two charges of murder.
The 12-person jury in Walterboro, South Carolina deliberated for less than three hours after a trial that had lasted six weeks and was broadcast live across the United States.
Murdaugh murdered his son Paul, 22, with a shotgun and his wife Maggie, 52, with an assault rifle Paul used for hunting wild pigs on the family’s sprawling estate.
The two victims were killed at close range near the dog kennels on the estate on June 7, 2021.
After the verdict was delivered, Murdaugh’s lawyers attempted to make a motion for a mistrial, which was denied by the judge.
Judge Clifton Newman said: “The evidence of guilt is overwhelming.”
Murdaugh faces 30 years to life in prison when he is sentenced on Friday.
He had pleaded not guilty, telling the jury: “I did not kill Maggie, and I did not kill Paul. I would never hurt Maggie, and I would never hurt Paul, ever, under any circumstances.”
But, giving evidence during the trial, he admitted having lied about his alibi, and to an array of financial crimes.
Throughout the case prosecutors portrayed him as a serial liar.
They said he gunned down his wife and son to distract from the financial crimes, which included the theft of millions of dollars from his law partners and clients.
He had used that money to fund an addiction to opioids and to support an expensive lifestyle, the court heard.
Murdaugh lied about his whereabouts
Murdaugh admitted on the witness stand that he had lied about his whereabouts on the night of the killings.
He initially told police he was not at the dog kennels before his wife and son were killed.
However, he changed his account after a video was found on Paul Murdaugh’s mobile phone, which had taken investigators over a year to unlock.
It captured the voices of all three Murdaughs minutes before the crime.
Murdaugh told the jury he had, in fact, joined Maggie and Paul at the kennels, where he took a chicken away from a Labrador named Bubba.
He could be heard on the phone video saying the dog’s name.
He claimed that he had then headed back to the house shortly before the fatal shootings.
Claim to police that opioids had made him paranoid
Murdaugh claimed he had lied to the police at the start because opioids had made him paranoid.
Amid the 75 witnesses and more than 800 documents jurors also heard how Murdaugh had failed in an attempt to stage his own death in an insurance fraud scheme.
Following the guilty verdict, Alex Murdaugh’s lawyers attempted to make a motion for a mistrial, which the judge promptly denied, saying:
‘The evidence of guilt is overwhelming. I deny the motion.’ pic.twitter.com/Gy2OKc0TYI
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) March 3, 2023
They also heard about a housekeeper who died in a fall in the Murdaugh home, and a fatal boat crash in which his son was implicated.
The weapons used to kill his wife and son were never found, and there was no direct evidence, like blood spatter or DNA, linking Murdaugh to the killings.
But, in addition to the phone video, the jury also heard that spent cartridges found near Maggie Murdaugh’s body matched those used at a shooting range elsewhere on the family property.
Murdaugh ‘killed to cover his tracks’
Prosecutors told the court Murdaugh was afraid all of his financial misdeeds were about to be discovered, so he killed his wife and son to gain sympathy to buy time to cover his tracks.
Before he was charged with murder he was in jail awaiting trial on about 100 other charges ranging from insurance fraud to tax evasion.
Murdaugh’s lawyers were expected to appeal the murder convictions based on the judge having allowed evidence of the financial crimes to be used in the trial.
They argued those were unrelated to the killings and were used by prosecutors to smear Murdaugh’s reputation.
Unanimous verdict unexpected
Bill Nettles, a former US attorney for South Carolina, told CNN that he expected a hung jury.
“The one thing you can clearly take away from this was, he had been lying to a lot of people that he loved for a long time, and so he had obviously gotten to be pretty good at it,” he said.
“If he went in there and they believed him, then he would have likely been found not guilty. But once they decide that he’s willing to put himself out there and they don’t believe him, that’s kind of a tough hill to get over,” he added.
Justin Bamberg, who represented the alleged financial crime victims of Murdaugh, also expressed surprise at the rapid speed of the jury’s verdict.
“I truly think that the jury recognised this man lied to everybody,” he told CNN.
“Every single person who’s been victimised by Alex has wanted one thing: complete accountability. And complete accountability started here today with this jury verdict.”