Alex Murdaugh’s risky testimony finally brought him down
Former convicted attorney Alex Murdaugh’s decision to speak up during his double murder trial wasn’t entirely surprising given his family’s legal heritage dating back to the early 1900s on the coast of La Caroline from the south.
But legal experts say it was ultimately a costly maneuver for the scion of the well-connected Murdaugh clan, who have pursued crime for three successive generations in the state’s rural low country.
“Being a qualified attorney, I think he thought he could outwit the jurors,” 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 his son.
“He had to testify. There were too many lies,” CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson said Saturday. “Obviously the jury felt he was misleading them.”
Perhaps Murdaugh’s Biggest Lie Denied for a year and a half that he was in the vicinity of his wife, Maggie, and 22-year-old son, Paul, when they were shot on the family property of ‘Islandton on June 7, 2021.
On the stand, Murdaugh maintained that he did not kill them but found their bodies after returning from a brief visit to his sick mother that night.
A key piece of evidence came from Paul Murdaugh, who recorded video moments before he was shot and killed. It showed a family dog near the kennels on the property. He also captured his father’s voice in the background, placing Alex Murdaugh at the crime scene.
The video, which Murdaugh was unaware of before the trial, eliminated his alibi. The longtime lawyer spoke at a courthouse where a portrait of Murdaugh’s grandfather had adorned a wall before the trial. He sought to explain why he lied about his whereabouts.
“He had never faced responsibility in his life and had always been able to escape it — and that was more important to him than anything,” senior prosecutor Creighton Waters told CNN.
“That’s why I always believed he would testify in this case. That he was sure he could pull through once again. Not out of all trouble, but definitely out of it. Clearly, the jury saw otherwise.
Moments after taking the stand, Murdaugh acknowledged his voice was heard in the video which appeared to have been taken at the kennels where the bodies were found, claiming he lied to investigators about being there anymore. early in the evening because of “paranoid thinking” stemming from his drug addiction.
During the trial, many witnesses identified Murdaugh’s voice in the background of the footage. But Murdaugh insisted he “did not shoot my wife or my son. Anytime. Never.”
Craig Moyer, a juror who helped convict Murdaugh on Thursday, told ABC News it took the panel less than an hour to reach a unanimous decision.
The video was crucial.
“I could hear his voice clearly,” Moyer told ABC. “And everyone else could too.”
Murdaugh was “a good liar”, said Moyer, “but not good enough”.
Moyer told ABC he “didn’t see any genuine remorse or compassion” from Murdaugh. On the stand, Murdaugh “didn’t cry,” Moyer said. “All he did was blow snot.”
Waters said he just wanted Murdaugh to talk on cross-examination. And he did.
“We have to remember this guy was an experienced lawyer,” Waters said. “He’s a part-time assistant attorney and there’s a 100-year legacy of lawsuits in his family…I felt like he believed he could look at that jury and really convince them. But I felt that if I made him talk, he would end up lying and they would see that in real time.
Defense attorney Dick Harpootlian defended the decision to let Murdaugh testify, saying his credibility was in question due to financial wrongdoing. He said the defense team planned to appeal the conviction within 10 days.
In a separate case that has yet to go to trial, Murdaugh faces 99 charges stemming from a series of alleged financial crimes, including defrauding his clients, a former law firm and the government of millions of people.
“Once they got that information about the character – ‘he’s a thief, he’s a liar’ – then that jury must have thought he was a despicable human being, and not be believed”, Harpootlian told reporters after sentencing, referring to evidence about the financial situation. crimes presented at the murder trial. Murdaugh, he added, has always wanted to speak up.
Harpootlian told CNN it was “inexplicable that he would execute his son and his wife like this, in my mind.”
Another defense attorney, Jim Griffin, said putting Murdaugh on the stand showed the jury his client’s “emotions about Maggie and Paul, which are very raw and real.”
Still, putting Murdaugh on the stand was a risky move, legal experts say.
“His testimony was very poor. In fact, I think it was borderline atrocious,” jury consultant Alan Tuerkheimer told CNN. “Jurors don’t like witnesses being questioned and not answering and that that he continued to do was beyond the scope of the questions.”
Tuerkheimer added that Murdaugh “kept trying to intersperse his own story. He was evasive, I thought he dithered a lot and his testimony was self-serving and the jurors didn’t like it. He should have stuck with it. quick yes or no answers when he was crossed.
Tuerkheimer also questioned the effectiveness of Murdaugh frequently referring to his deceased wife and son as “Mags” and “Paul Paul”.
“It’s effective if it’s genuine and it just didn’t turn out to be genuine. Look, lawyers love to testify. They use words to persuade people. And once he was on the stand, he just couldn’t contain himself,” Tuerkheimer said of Murdaugh.
“And when he used those terms to try to endear himself to the jury, they just didn’t think it was genuine. They rejected it and it was a Hail Mary that he had to testify. And, like the most of the Hail Marys, it didn’t work.
On Thursday, after more than a month and dozens of witnesses, the jury found Murdaugh guilty of two counts of murder in the June 2021 murders, as well as two counts of possession of a weapon in the commission of a violent crime.
The following day after his sentencing, Murdaugh – dressed in a maroon jumpsuit and handcuffs – was escorted out of a courthouse that once symbolized his family’s history of power and privilege in the region.
“For him, the chance to convince a juror or two that he might be a liar, he might be a thief, but he’s not a killer, was worth the risk,” the lawyer said on Saturday. Defense Misty Marris to CNN. “But in my opinion, it was the testimony that really sank him.”
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