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Disbarred Attorney Alex Murdaugh Avoids Death Penalty as Prosecutors Seek Life without Parole in Double Murder Case


Alex Murdaugh appears in an Oct. 14, 2021 mugshot obtained from the Orange County, Fla. Department of Corrections.

South Carolina will not seek to put accused murderer and disgraced attorney Richard “Alex” Murdaugh to death, the Palmetto State attorney general said in a statement provided to Law&Crime.

“After carefully reviewing this case and all the surrounding facts, we have decided to seek life without parole for Alex Murdaugh,” South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said in a press release. “Because this is a pending case, we cannot comment further.”

The terse acknowledgment that prosecutors would not be pursuing a capital case against Murdaugh over the grisly 2021 midsummer shooting deaths of Margaret “Maggie” Murdaugh, 52, and Paul Murdaugh, 22, was met with relief by the 54-year-old defendant’s legal team.

“We are not surprised but also welcome the decision to not seek the death penalty for Alex Murdaugh,” lawyers Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin told Law&Crime in an email.  “Now there is no impediment for going ahead with the trial scheduled for January 23, when we look forward to evidence, not leaks, determining the outcome.”

The disbarred lawyer stands accused of killing his youngest son on June 7, 2021, with two shotgun blasts that struck the victim’s head, arm, and chest. Prosecutors say the lawyer killed his wife at around the same time with a series of rounds fired by a semi-automatic rifle near the dog kennels on the family’s property, a sprawling 1,770-acre hunting lodge known to locals as “Moselle.”

State prosecutors did not elaborate on the evidence that motivated their decision not to ask for capital punishment in the case.

The prosecution is being led by State Grand Jury Section Chief Attorney Creighton Waters, who recently filed a document outlining the defendant’s alleged motive for killing his wife and son.

The state, Waters wrote, will seek to impress upon jurors a juxtaposition between “who Alex Murdaugh appeared to be to the outside world — a successful lawyer and scion of the most prominent family in the region — and who he was in the real life only he fully knew – an allegedly crooked lawyer and drug user who borrowed and stole whatever he could to stay afloat and one step ahead of detection.”

Prosecutors intend to tell jurors that in the end, corruption and addiction took its toll, and Alex Murdaugh’s life was about to be undone by years of amassed financial improprieties – so he allegedly shot and killed his own family in order to cover it all up. An alleged parallel scheme, the state intends to argue, was a failed effort to have a former client shoot and kill the defendant on the side of the road in order for his eldest son to receive a huge life insurance payout.

The complicated nature of the case – including a litany of alleged financial crimes with which Alex Murdaugh has also been charged – has resulted in an avalanche of pretrial filings.

On Monday, the defense won a potentially substantial procedural victory when prosecutors were ordered to turn over all evidence related to a blood spatter expert witness who penned two separate – and dueling – reports about the presence of blood on the shirt the defendant was wearing on the night of the murders.

Murdaugh’s murder trial is currently slated to begin on Jan. 23, 2023.

[image via Orange County, Fla. Department of Corrections]

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