Thinker's Chronicle

Recapping the Alex Murdaugh Trial

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The six-week trial of Alex Murdaugh has taken over countless headlines, documentaries, and news channels. Here’s what we know about this case so far.

Who is Alex Murdaugh?

The Murdaugh family was an American dynasty of lawyers in the Lowcountry region of South Carolina, prominent in the area from 1920 to 2006. Since 2014, this family has been the topic of many investigations, including those involving wrongful death, murder, corruption, insurance fraud, defrauding clients, theft of insurance payouts, and drug- and alcohol-related charges.

Alex Murdaugh is a 54-year-old criminal who has been sentenced for life because he killed his son and wife. He is a former lawyer who was a member of the Parker Law Group, which represents the Murdaugh family. Over the years, Alex Murdaugh and several of his associates were charged with many serious crimes, such as murder, tax evasion, drug trafficking, and stealing over $8.7 million from clients and other authorities. 

In addition, in 2019, Paul Murdaugh, the son of Alex Murdaugh, was charged with boating under the influence, resulting in the death of Mallory Beach. This occurred when Paul’s blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle, but the legal limit did not apply to him since he was underage. Even though he was the driver of the boat that slammed into a bridge, he was never handcuffed or taken to jail for booking. This led to many theories that he had received special treatment due to his family’s prominence.

What is the trial about?

In 2021, a South Carolina jury found former attorney Alex Murdaugh guilty of murdering his wife, Maggie, and his son, Paul. Maggie and Paul were found murdered on June 7, 2021, at their family’s property in Islandton, South Carolina. Each of the victims had been shot multiple times with different guns. At around 10pm that day, Alex Murdaugh called 911 to report that he had found his wife and son murdered. Alex said he had spotted the two victims out near kernels on their property that was larger than 1,700 acres and had checked to see if they were dead.

“Any reasonable person would have assumed they were dead,” the first responding officer, Sgt. Daniel Greene, explained. Alex Murdaugh quickly responded to the statement by saying “this is a long story, months back he was in a boat crash, my son has been getting threats, mostly beginning stuff, but he’s been getting punched”. 

Paul, Margaret, and Alex Murdaugh

What were the prosecution’s arguments?

The prosecution team, led by Creighton Waters, argued that Alex Murdaugh is guilty of murdering his wife and son. They argue that Alex Murdaugh killed his wife and son in hopes of gaining sympathy and terminating the investigations being conducted about the money that he is accused of stealing. Their argument included making Murdaugh look like a desperate liar who lied to cover his tracks.

The main pieces of evidence given by the prosecution are the video taken by Paul moments before he died, a Snapchat video that was also taken by Paul, and the lack of blood splatter on Alex Murdaugh’s clothes, even though he claimed that he checked the victims to ensure that they were dead. In the video that was taken by Paul moments before he died, several witnesses testified to hearing Alex Murdaugh’s voice even though he claims he was never at the kernels that night.

The Snapchat video that was taken by Paul also includes Alex Murdaugh wearing a different set of clothes than what he was wearing when the police got to the scene of the crime. The old set of clothes were never found but a witness claims that the clothes that Murdaugh was wearing when the police arrived were spotless and without any blood, despite the fact that Murdaugh said that he had checked the victims bodies to see if they were dead. 

The prosecution sought to have Alex Murdaugh spend the rest of his life in prison.

What were the arguments made by the defense?

The defense team, led by Richard Harpootlian, argued that Murdaugh was a victim in all of this. They portrayed Alex Murdaugh as a family man who spent a lot of time with his family and loved his wife and son. Many witnesses claimed that Murdaugh always picked up any calls from his wife or son.

In addition, the defense filed multiple motions to exclude various pieces of evidence from the case. Murdaugh’s son, Buster, and Murdaugh himself, both testified for the defense. During the testimony, Murdaugh did not admit to hurting his wife or son, but he did admit to lying during the investigation. The defense team also went against the prosecution’s timeline of the night’s events by saying that Murdaugh would have to be a magician to get rid of all the evidence so quickly. They also talk about how Alex Murdaugh is acting as normal as always, and how the idea that he killed two of the people he loved most in the world was absurd. They also bring up the theory that the two guns were fired by two shooters. 

What was the decision?

It took the jury only about three hours to come to the unanimous verdict that Alex Murdaugh is guilty of the murder of his wife and son. 

Asmitha Daggumati

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