Alex Murdaugh’s risky testimony ultimately brought him down
Convicted former attorney Alex Murdaugh’s decision to take the stand in his double-murder trial wasn’t entirely surprising because his family’s legal heritage stretches back to the early 1900s in coastal South Carolina.
But legal experts say it was ultimately a costly maneuver for the scion of the well-connected Murdaugh clan, who prosecuted the crime for three consecutive generations in the state’s rural low country.
“Being a skilled attorney, I think he thought he could outwit the jury,” said attorney and legal affairs commentator Areva Martin.
On Friday, a week after Murdaugh, 54, spent hours on the witness stand trying to convince a jury of his innocence, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murders of his wife and son.
“He had to testify. There were a lot of lies,” CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson said Saturday. “Obviously the jury felt he was deceiving them.”
Murdoch’s biggest lie may have been denying for a year and a half that he was anywhere near his wife, Maggie, and 22-year-old son, Paul, when they were fatally shot at the family’s Islandton property on June 7, 2021. had gone
On the stand, Murdaugh said he did not kill them but found their bodies that night after returning from a brief visit to his ailing mother.
A key piece of evidence came from Paul Murdaugh, who recorded a video moments before he was shot and killed. It showed a family dog near the kennel on the property. It also captured his father’s voice in the background, placing Alex Murdaugh at the scene of the crime.
The video, which Murdaugh didn’t know existed before the trial, ended his alibi. The longtime lawyer took the stand in court where a picture of Murdaugh’s grandfather adorned a wall before the trial. He tried to explain why he lied about his whereabouts.
“He had never faced accountability in his life and he was always able to avoid it — and that was more important to him than anything else,” lead prosecutor Creighton Waters told CNN.
“That’s why I always believed he would testify in this case. that he was assured that he could talk his way out of it once more. Not out of all trouble but definitely talk about how to get out of it. Clearly the jury saw something else.
Within moments of taking the stand, Murdaugh admitted that his voice was heard on video taken at the dog kennel where the bodies were found, saying he lied to investigators about being there earlier that evening. Spoken because of his “crazy thinking” stemming from his drug addiction.
During the trial, several witnesses identified Murdaugh’s voice in the background of the footage. But Murdoff was adamant that he “didn’t shoot my wife or my son. At any time. Ever.”
Craig Moyer, a juror who helped convict Murdaugh on Thursday, told ABC News that it took the panel less than an hour to reach a unanimous decision.
Video was important.
“I could hear his voice clearly,” Moyer told ABC. “And so can everyone else.”
Murdaugh “was a good liar,” Moir said, “but not good enough.”
Moir told the ABC he had “not seen any genuine remorse or pity” from Murdoch. On the stand, Murdaugh “didn’t cry,” Moyer said. “All he did was blow snot.”
Waters said he only wanted to speak to Murdoch during cross-examination. And he did.
“We have to remember that this guy was an experienced lawyer,” Waters said. “He’s a part-time assistant prosecutor and has a 100-year litigation legacy in his family… I felt like he believed he could look at that jury and really convince them. But I felt that if I asked him to talk he would eventually lie and they would see it in real time. ”
Defense attorney Dick Harputlian defended the decision to let Murdaugh testify, saying his credibility was called into question because of the financial irregularities. He said the defense team plans to appeal the sentence within 10 days.
In a separate case that has not yet gone to trial, Murdoch faces 99 charges stemming from several alleged financial crimes, including defrauding his clients, a former law firm and the government of millions.
“Once they got that character information — ‘He’s a thief, he’s a liar’ — this jury had to think he was a despicable human being, and not to be believed,” Harputlian told reporters after the sentencing, citing evidence about the finances. Offenses adduced in a trial for murder. Murdoch, he added, always wanted to take a stand.
“It’s unfathomable that he would, in my mind, kill his son and his wife in that way,” Harputlian told CNN.
Another defense attorney, Jim Griffin, said having Murdaugh on the stand showed the jury his client’s “feelings about Maggie and Paul, which are very raw and real.”
Still, putting Murdoch on the stand was a risky move, according to legal experts.
“His testimony was very poor. In fact, I think it was borderline atrocity,” jury consultant Alan Tuerkheimer told CNN. “Juries don’t like it when witnesses are cross-examined and they don’t answer and what he kept doing was going beyond the scope of the questions.”
Tuerkheimer added that Murdoff “kept trying to interject his own narrative. He was evasive, I thought he did too much and his testimony was self-serving and jurors don’t like that. If he was being crossed he should have answered yes or no immediately.”
Tuerkheimer also questioned the effectiveness of Murdoch who often referred to his dead wife and son as “Mags” and “Paul Paul”.
“It’s effective if it’s true and it hasn’t really happened. See, lawyers love to testify. They use words to persuade people. And once he was on the stand, he couldn’t control himself,” Turkheimer said of Murdoch.
“And when he was using these terms to try to ingratiate himself with the jury, they didn’t think it was valid. They rejected it and it was a Hail Mary. Which he had to witness. And, like most Hail Marys, it didn’t work.
On Thursday, after more than a month and dozens of witnesses, a jury convicted Murdaugh of two counts of murder in the June 2021 murders, as well as two counts of possession of a weapon during a violent crime.
The next day, after his sentencing, Murdaugh – dressed in a brown jumpsuit and handcuffs – was led out of the courtroom that once symbolized his family’s history of power and privilege in the area.
“There was an opportunity for him to convince one or two jurors that he might be a liar, he might be a thief, but he’s not a murderer, to take that risk,” defense attorney Misty Marris told CNN on Saturday. was worthy.” “But in my opinion, the testimony was what really sunk him.”