“48 Hours” will air “The Trial of Alex Murdaugh” Saturday at 10/9c.
Alex Murdaugh was sentenced to life in prison Friday morning in South Carolina, and his attorneys said they plan to appeal his conviction in the high-profile double murder trial. The disgraced former attorney was convicted Thursday on four counts: the 2021 murder of his wife Maggie Murdaugh, the murder of his son Paul Murdaugh, and two counts of possession of a weapon during a crime.
Judge Clifton Newman announced a sentence of “the rest of your natural life” in prison for each of the two murder counts, to be served consecutively. Murdaugh, 54, wasn’t sentenced for the other charges because of the life sentence.
Murdaugh spoke briefly in court before the sentence was handed down and denied that he had ever hurt his wife or son.
“I respect this court, but I’m innocent,” Murdaugh told the judge. “I would never under any circumstances hurt my wife Maggie, and I would never under any circumstances hurt my son.”
“And it might not have been you,” Newman responded. “It might have been the monster you become when you take 15, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 opioid pills. Maybe you become another person.”
The convicted former attorney and the judge exchanged words a few times during Friday’s brief hearing. At one point, Newman asked Murdaugh why he used the expression “tangled web we weave” when he testified in his own defense.
“I meant when I lied, I continue to lie,” Murdaugh said.
“And the question is, when will it end, when will it end?” the judge said. “It’s ended already for the jury because they’ve concluded that you continued to lie and lie throughout your testimony.”
When Murdaugh took the stand during the trial, he repeatedly broke down in tears over two days of testimony as he denied the killings. But his testimony also included admissions that he had lied to investigators, and evidence presented by the prosecution placed him at the scene on the night of the murders.
After the sentencing, defense attorney Dick Harpootlian told reporters Murdaugh had to testify because his credibility had been “stripped away” when prosecutors were allowed to include Murdaugh’s alleged financial crimes in their case. Prosecutors argued Murdaugh carried out the killings to gain sympathy before the allegations came out.
“There was no choice because he’d been made out to be a monster who stole from children and crippled people and — is crippled not, that’s not a politically correct word? I’m sorry, I’m an old guy — crippled people who had just done horrible, despicable things, and he had to try to push back on that,” Harpootlian said during a press conference. “I mean, if he’d let that lay without taking the stand, he was toast.”
Harpootlian said a notice of intention to appeal will be filed within 10 days. Attorney Jim Griffin said the defense team will appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if they need to.
In an interview with CBS News correspondent Nikki Battiste, Griffin said he believes Murdaugh is innocent.
“We believe he has a very strong appeal, and we plan to continue fighting because I for one and I think Dick for another and a lot of people who know him much better than we do believe in his innocence, that he could not have executed his wife and son for any reason, much less the fabricated reason they presented in court,” Griffin said.
None of Murdaugh’s family members, including his surviving son Buster, addressed the court during Friday’s sentencing. Griffin told reporters it wouldn’t have made a difference if Buster had spoken to the judge.
“We could have had Mother Teresa up there speaking on behalf of Alex at sentencing,” Griffin said. “I mean, he was getting a double life sentence. That was expected.”
Prosecutor Creighton Waters said Murdaugh displayed a lack of remorse for the killings and asked for the judge to impose the maximum punishment of two life sentences.
“This case is about Maggie Murdaugh and Paul Murdaugh, and I’m so thankful that the jurors gave them a voice,” Waters said.
The judge brought up the victims when he spoke with Murdaugh.
“I know you have to see Paul and Maggie during the nighttimes when you’re attempting to go to sleep,” Newman said. “I’m sure they come and visit you.”
“All day and every night,” Murdaugh responded.
“They will continue to do so and reflect on the last time they looked you in the eyes as you looked the jury in the eyes,” Newman said.
The judge noted that prosecutors chose to not pursue the death penalty in the case and that Murdaugh once prosecuted defendants who were sentenced to death.
“Probably for lesser conduct,” Newman said.
In a news conference Thursday evening, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said the verdict came after “nearly two years of blood, sweat and tears from a lot of hard-working people.”
“Our criminal justice system worked tonight. It gave a voice to Maggie and Paul Murdaugh, who were brutally mowed down by someone they knew and trusted,” Wilson said.
After the verdict was read, the defense moved to have it thrown out and a mistrial declared, but Newman denied the request, citing the massive amount of evidence and testimony the jury had considered, The Associated Press reported.
“The jury has now considered the evidence for a significant period of time, and the evidence of guilt is overwhelming,” he said.
Murdaugh faces another trial in the future over numerous financial crimes.
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