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Alex Murdaugh found guilty of murders of wife and son

(CBS) - A jury in South Carolina reached a verdict of guilty on all counts after less than three hours of deliberations in the case of disgraced former attorney Alex Murdaugh, who was accused of killing his wife and son in 2021. 

Murdaugh, 54, was convicted Thursday on four counts: the murder of Maggie Murdaugh, the murder of Paul Murdaugh, and two counts of possession of a weapon during a crime. 

On Friday, he was sentenced to life in prison. Murdaugh told the judge he was innocent and that he "would never hurt" his wife or son. 

Murdaugh still faces another trial in the future over numerous financial crimes.

"Our criminal justice system worked tonight. It gave a voice to Maggie and Paul Murdaugh, who were brutally mowed down by someone they knew and trusted," Wilson said. 

After the verdict was read, the defense moved to have it thrown out and a mistrial declared, but Judge Clifton Newman denied the request, citing the massive amount of evidence and testimony the jury had considered, The Associated Press reported.

"The jury has now considered the evidence for a significant period of time, and the evidence of guilt is overwhelming," he said.

Jurors started deliberations Thursday afternoon following weeks of testimony from dozens of witnesses in a sprawling case that culminated in a visit to the crime scene, the family's rural hunting estate Moselle, ahead of closing arguments.

Murdaugh took the stand in his own defense and repeatedly broke down in tears over two days of testimony, as he flatly denied that he killed his wife and son.  

He admitted under questioning that he had lied to investigators when he denied being at the estate that night — blaming his lies on his addiction to opioids. His attorneys said his drug habits cost $50,000 a week.

"I'm not quite sure how I let myself get where I got. I battled that addiction for so many years. I was spending so much money on pills," Murdaugh said.

His presence at the murder scene was uncovered thanks to a cellphone video taken by his son, in which Alex Murdaugh's voice could be heard shortly before the killings near the kennels on their rural Colleton County estate on June 7, 2021. 

Prosecutors argued that Murdaugh killed his wife and son in a desperate effort to distract attention from his financial crimes and gain sympathy from the community. Maggie Murdaugh, 52, was shot four or five times with a rifle, and 22-year-old Paul was shot twice with a shotgun. The murder weapons were not found.

The jury heard from more than 75 witnesses and saw nearly 800 pieces of evidence. The weeks of testimony included countless twists and turns in a story that included Murdaugh's failed attempt to stage his own death for insurance money, and a fatal boat crash for which his son Paul was facing charges, The jury also heard about the death of the family's housekeeper in a fall in the Murdaugh home and accusations that Murdaugh defrauded her family of the insurance settlement.

For its part, the defense argued that the authorities conducted a shoddy investigation — failing to collect evidence like fingerprints or possible DNA on Maggie or Paul Murdaugh's clothing that could have pointed to someone else — because they were so determined to get him convicted.

Over the course of the trial, the number of alternate jurors dwindled to one, following dismissals for medical reasons and, in one case, speaking about the case. That juror was removed during closing arguments.

Murdaugh also faces nearly 100 charges against him for various financial crimes, including fraud, money laundering, tax evasion and forgery, and is accused of stealing more than $8 million and trying to get a man to shoot him in a $10 million life insurance scheme. While he admitted to some of these crimes on the stand during this trial, legal proceedings in those cases are still ahead. 

The Associated Press contributed reporting.

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