Convicted former legal professional Alex Murdaugh’s choice to take the stand at his double homicide trial was not fully shocking given his household’s authorized legacy stretching again to the early 1900s in coastal South Carolina.
However authorized consultants say it was in the end a pricey maneuver for the scion of the well-connected Murdaugh clan, which prosecuted crime for 3 successive generations throughout the state’s rural low nation.
“Being a talented legal professional, I believe he thought he might outsmart the jurors,” legal professional and authorized affairs commentator Areva Martin mentioned.
On Friday, one week after Murdaugh, 54, spent hours on the witness stand attempting to persuade a jury of his innocence, he was sentenced to life in prison with out the potential of parole for the murders of his wife and son.
“He needed to testify. There have been too many lies,” CNN authorized analyst Joey Jackson mentioned Saturday. “Clearly the jury felt that he was conning them.”
Murdaugh’s greatest lie maybe was denying for a yr and half that he was anyplace close to his spouse, Maggie, and 22-year-old son, Paul, after they have been fatally shot on the household’s Islandton property on June 7, 2021.
On the stand, Murdaugh maintained he didn’t kill them however discovered their our bodies after coming back from a short go to to his sick mom that night time.
A key piece of proof got here from Paul Murdaugh, who recorded a video moments earlier than he was gunned down and killed. It confirmed a household canine close to the kennels on the property. It additionally captured his father’s voice within the background, putting Alex Murdaugh on the scene of the crime.
The video, which Murdaugh didn’t know existed earlier than the trial, eradicated his alibi. The longtime lawyer took the stand in a courthouse the place a portrait of Murdaugh’s grandfather had adorned a wall earlier than the trial. He sought to elucidate why he lied about his whereabouts.
“He had by no means confronted accountability in his life and had all the time been capable of escape that – and that was extra vital to him than something,” lead prosecutor Creighton Waters informed CNN.
“That’s why I used to be all the time satisfied that he would testify on this case. That he was assured that he might discuss his method out of it yet one more time. Not out of all the difficulty however actually discuss his method out of this. Clearly the jury noticed in any other case.”
Inside moments of taking the stand, Murdaugh acknowledged his voice is heard in the video that seemed to be taken on the canine kennels the place the our bodies have been discovered, saying he lied to investigators about being there earlier that night due to “paranoid considering” stemming from his drug habit.
Over the course of the trial, quite a few witnesses recognized Murdaugh’s voice within the background of the footage. However Murdaugh was emphatic that he “didn’t shoot my spouse or my son. Anytime. Ever.”
Craig Moyer, a juror who helped convict Murdaugh on Thursday, informed ABC Information it took the panel lower than an hour to achieve a unanimous choice.
The video was essential.
“I might hear his voice clearly,” Moyer informed ABC. “And everyone else might too.”
Murdaugh was “a superb liar,” Moyer mentioned, “however not adequate.”
Moyer informed ABC he “didn’t see any true regret or compassion” from Murdaugh. On the stand, Murdaugh “didn’t cry,” Moyer mentioned. “All he did was blow snot.”
Waters mentioned he merely needed to get Murdaugh speaking throughout cross examination. And he did.
“Now we have to recollect this man was an skilled lawyer,” Waters mentioned. “He’s a part-time assistant solicitor and there’s 100 years of prosecution legacy in his household… I felt like he believed he might have a look at that jury and actually persuade them. However I felt if I acquired him speaking he would ultimately lie and they might get to see that in actual time.”
Protection legal professional Dick Harpootlian defended the choice to let Murdaugh testify, saying his credibility was below query due to monetary wrongdoings. He mentioned the protection staff plans to enchantment the sentence inside 10 days.
In a separate case that has not but gone to trial, Murdaugh faces 99 expenses stemming from a slew of alleged monetary crimes, together with defrauding his shoppers, former legislation agency and the federal government of thousands and thousands.
“As soon as they acquired that character info – ‘he’s a thief, he’s a liar’ – then this jury needed to assume that he’s a despicable human being, and to not be believed,” Harpootlian informed reporters after sentencing, referring to proof in regards to the monetary crimes launched on the homicide trial. Murdaugh, he added, all the time needed to take the stand.
Harpootlian informed CNN it was “inexplicable that he would execute his son and his spouse in that trend, in my thoughts.”
One other protection lawyer, Jim Griffin, mentioned placing Murdaugh on the stand confirmed the jury his consumer’s “feelings about Maggie and Paul, that are very uncooked and actual.”
Nonetheless, placing Murdaugh on the stand was a dangerous transfer, in keeping with authorized consultants.
“His testimony was very poor. In reality, I believe it was borderline atrocious,” jury guide Alan Tuerkheimer informed CNN. “Jurors don’t prefer it when witnesses are being questioned they usually don’t reply and what he saved doing frequently was going past the scope of the questions.”
Tuerkheimer added that Murdaugh “saved attempting to interject his personal narrative. He was evasive, I believed he prevaricated so much and his testimony was self serving and jurors don’t like that. He ought to have caught to fast sure or no solutions when he was being crossed.”
Tuerkheimer additionally questioned the effectiveness of Murdaugh continuously referring to his useless spouse and son as “Mags” and “Paul Paul.”
“It’s efficient if it’s real and it simply didn’t come off as real. Look, attorneys like to testify. They use phrases to steer folks. And as soon as he was on the stand, he simply couldn’t comprise himself,” Tuerkheimer mentioned of Murdaugh.
“And when he was utilizing these phrases in attempting to endear himself with the jury, they simply didn’t assume that it was genuine. They rejected it and it was a Hail Mary that he needed to testify. And, like most Hail Marys, it didn’t work.”
On Thursday, after greater than a month and dozens of witnesses, the jury convicted Murdaugh of two counts of homicide within the June 2021 killings, in addition to two counts of possession of a weapon throughout the fee of a violent crime.
The following day, after his sentencing, Murdaugh – sporting a brown jumpsuit and handcuffs – was escorted out of a courthouse that after symbolized his household’s historical past of energy and privilege within the area.
“For him the possibility of convincing one or two jurors that he could be a liar, he could be a thief, however he’s not a killer, was value taking that threat,” protection legal professional Misty Marris informed CNN Saturday. “However in my view, the testimony was what really sunk him.”