Alex Murdaugh gives testimony in his murder trial at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina
Alex Murdaugh gives testimony in his murder trial at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina, U.S., February 23, 2023. Grace Beahm Alford/Pool via USA TODAY NETWORK via REUTERS Reuters

A South Carolina jury on Thursday found Richard "Alex" Murdaugh guilty of killing his wife and son, convicting the once-influential attorney of murder in a case that has gripped the nation's attention for nearly two years.

The 12-person jury declared Murdaugh, 54, guilty on two counts of murdering his wife Maggie, 52, and youngest son, Paul, 22, who were executed at close range near the dog kennels on their family estate on the evening of June 7, 2021. He was also convicted of two related firearms charges.

Murdaugh betrayed no emotion as the jury foreperson read the verdict, which the panel reached after three hours of deliberations. He was then led out of the courtroom with his hands cuffed.

His lawyer immediately motioned for a mistrial, which the judge swiftly denied.

"The evidence of guilt is overwhelming," South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman said.

Murdaugh, the scion of an influential legal family in an area west of Charleston, had pleaded not guilty, though he admitting lying about his alibi and to an array of financial crimes in confessions that dented his credibility with the jury.

With the guilty verdict, Murdaugh faces 30 years to life in prison for each of the two counts of murder when he is sentenced on Friday.

The case has drawn intense media coverage given the family's immense political power in and around Colleton County, where the trial took place. For decades until 2006, family members served as the leading prosecutor in the area, and Murdaugh was a prominent personal injury attorney in the Deep South state.

Throughout the trial, prosecutors sought to portray Murdaugh as a serial liar and argued that only he had the means and the opportunity to commit the murders. Prosecutors said he gunned down his wife and son to distract from a litany of financial crimes, including the theft of millions of dollars from his law partners and clients - money used to feed a years-long addiction to opioids and support an expensive lifestyle.

Among the state's strongest evidence was Murdaugh's admission from the stand last week that he'd lied about his whereabouts on the night of the killings, telling investigators he wasn't at the dog kennels before the murders. Murdaugh changed his account after the jury listened to audio evidence placing him at the crime scene minutes before it occurred.

For their part, Murdaugh's lawyers tried to paint their client as a loving family man who, while facing financial difficulties and suffering from an opioid addiction that led him to lie and steal, would never harm his wife and child.

They floated alternative theories, with Murdaugh testifying that he believed someone angry over a deadly 2019 boating accident involving Paul likely sought revenge on his son.


Jim Griffin, one of the defense lawyers, described the state's alleged motive as preposterous, arguing the murders would have only drawn more scrutiny, not less, to the allegations of Murdaugh's financial misdeeds.

Griffin repeatedly highlighted the high legal bar in criminal cases of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, underscoring the challenge for prosecutors who built their case on circumstantial rather than direct evidence.

"If there's any reasonable cause for you to hesitate to write 'guilty,' then the law requires you to write 'not guilty,'" he said.

On rebuttal on Thursday, Assistant Attorney General John Meadors stressed that the prosecution didn't need to prove motive and said all the evidence pointed at Murdaugh - who, he said, cared about himself above everyone else - as the murderer.

"I don't know why he killed his wife and son. I don't have to say why. I think he did it to protect the one he loved the most, the one he really loved the most, so he could keep his lifestyle and not be embarrassed financially," Meadors said.