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In Murdaugh murder trial, lead prosecutor presents closing arguments


WALTERBORO, SC – The prosecutor seeking to convict Alex Murdaugh of the murder of his wife and son said in closing arguments Wednesday that a “gathering storm” threatened to expose Mr. Murdaugh’s thefts of millions of dollars. , leading him to kill his family in a last-ditch effort to preserve his legacy and wealth.

Creighton Waters, the prosecutor, argued that the evidence in the case could only lead jurors to conclude that Mr. Murdaugh, a fourth-generation lawyer in South Carolina, committed the June 2021 murders to end the expanding investigations into his finances and reported thefts. of clients and his law firm.

“After a thorough investigation, there is only one person who had the motive, who had the means, who had the opportunity to commit these crimes, and also whose culpable conduct after these crimes betrays him,” Mr. Waters said in the courtroom. he tried to summarize the prosecution’s case.

The pleadings took place on the 27th day of a trial which lasted much longer than expected. For five weeks, prosecutors presented a sweeping case against Mr Murdaugh, accused of killing his wife, Maggie Murdaugh, 52, and their youngest son, Paul Murdaugh, 22.

Mr Waters presented a grisly scenario to the jury: Mr Murdaugh first shot his son, firing a powerful shotgun at point-blank range, then shot his wife with a rifle as she ran towards him to see what had happened.

“She was running towards her baby,” Mr Waters said. “Heard that shot and was running towards her baby when she was mowed down by the only person we have conclusive evidence of was at the scene minutes before.”

Prosecutors said Mr Murdaugh stole millions of dollars from clients and his legal partners, and carried out the murders as his law firm’s accountant came close to discovering his thefts.

Mr Murdaugh admitted to stealing money but insisted he was innocent in the murders, saying he believed his wife and son were killed by someone angry at the role of Paul Murdaugh in a 2019 drunken boating accident that killed a 19-year-old woman. .

One of Mr. Murdaugh’s attorneys was due to deliver the defense’s closing argument on Thursday morning, and 12 jurors will then begin deliberations. Earlier on Wednesday, the jury visited the Murdaughs’ rural hunting estate, known as Moselle, where the victims were found dead near kennels on the property.

For 20 months after the June 7, 2021 killings, Mr. Murdaugh denied being at the kennel, a lie that was exposed at trial when prosecutors released video that Paul Murdaugh took at the kennel minutes before the killings; The voices of Alex and Maggie Murdaugh could be heard in the background.

In tearful testimony last week, Mr Murdaugh admitted he had lied, saying he feared acknowledging he was at the crime scene just before the murders would lead police to suspect that he was the killer. He said paranoia caused by his addiction to painkillers was part of what drove him to lie.

The video established that Mr Murdaugh was at the kennel at 8.45pm, minutes before the murders. In his witness account, Mr Murdaugh said he returned home within minutes, leaving his wife and son at the kennel. About 20 minutes later, he said, he left the property to visit his sick mother nearby. On the way there and back, he made a series of calls, including to his wife, but said he didn’t think anything was wrong when she didn’t answer.

Prosecutors said he had already committed the murders by then and was making the calls, as well as the hasty visit to his mother, to concoct an alibi.

Mr Waters said Mr Murdaugh’s edited story, in which he admitted he had been to the kennel but claimed he quickly left, was his ‘most egregious’ lie to date, told because he couldn’t deny being there anymore.

“What father would withhold anything if he was innocent?” said Mr. Waters. “What father would care what happened to him after that?” »

Mr Waters said Mr Murdaugh had, for years, deceived even his closest friends and relatives about his financial wrongdoings, and he urged the jury to see through Mr Murdaugh’s lies.

“He deceived them all. He also cheated on Maggie and Paul, and they paid for it with their lives,” Mr Waters said. “Don’t let him fool you, too.”

Mr Murdaugh returned to the Moselle estate from his mother’s house at 10 p.m., first stopping all the way to the house and then descending to the kennel, where he said he found the bodies of his wife and son and called 911, looking distraught.

To present their case, prosecutors relied on a wealth of data, including cellphone and car tracking records, as well as texts and videos. But their case has been hampered by a lack of physical evidence. Although they maintained that Maggie Murdaugh was killed with a gun belonging to the family, investigators have not found it, nor identified the shotgun used to kill the son.

No blood was found on Mr Murdaugh’s shirt, and there is no exact time of death, only an inference based on when the victims stopped using their phones and the estimate from a coroner that the murders took place around 9 p.m.

Mr. Waters emphasized in his closing argument that jurors should not worry about having a slight doubt; only a reasonable doubt, he says, should prevent them from convicting Mr. Murdaugh.

“Indirect evidence can be just as strong as direct evidence,” he said.

There have been no arrests in the murders for more than a year after the crimes, a period during which Mr Murdaugh suggested that the boating accident, which led to criminal charges against Paul Murdaugh and a lawsuit against the family, could have triggered an attack by revenge. He testified last week that he still believed that theory was the most likely motive for the crime.

The case has generated intense interest across the country, in part because of the Murdaugh family’s history of power and privilege in the region. Mr Murdaugh’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather all served as the leading attorney for much of South Carolina’s rural Lowcountry and were partners in a powerful family law firm . Mr. Murdaugh himself worked as a volunteer in the prosecutor’s office.

Mr Waters told jurors on Wednesday that Mr Murdaugh, who was disbarred last summer after being charged with a series of financial crimes, had used his sense of law to cover his tracks.

“He’s smart,” Mr. Waters said. “He’s a good lawyer.”

nytimes Gt

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