Judge Clifton Newman sentenced disgraced South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh to two consecutive life sentences on Friday in the deaths of his wife, Maggie, and his youngest son, Paul.
Here is what the judge said in the sentencing:
“This has been one of the most troubling cases, not just for me as a judge, for the state, for the defense team, but for all of the citizens in this community and state.
As we’ve seen based on the media coverage throughout the nation, you have a wife who’s been killed, murdered. A son, savagely murdered. A lawyer, a person from a respected family who has controlled justice in this community for over a century. A person whose grandfather’s portrait hangs at the back of the courthouse that I had to have ordered removed in order to ensure that a fair trial was had by both the state and the defense.
I’ve sat through the trial I’ve had to consider many things. We’ve had this case, I’m also assigned to preside over 99 other cases. Testimony has come up regarding many of those other cases that I will not make any comment on.
As a well-known member of the legal community, you’ve practiced law before me. We’ve seen each other at various occasions throughout the years.
It was especially heartbreaking for me to see you go in the media from being a grieving father who lost a wife and son to being the person indicted and convicted of killing them.
You’ve engaged in such duplicitous conduct here in the courtroom, here on the witness stand. Certainly, you have no obligation to say anything other than “not guilty”.
Obviously, appeals are probably – absolutely - expected. [But] I would not expect a confession of any kind.
As I’ve presided over murder cases over the past 22 years, I have yet to find a defendant who could go there, back to that moment in time, when they decided to pull the trigger or otherwise murder someone. I have not been able to get anyone, even those who have confessed, to go back and explain to me what happened at that moment in time when they opted to pull the trigger. When they opted to commit the most heinous crimes known to man.
This case qualifies under our death penalty statute. I don’t question at all the decision of the state not to pursue the death penalty. But as I sit here in the courtroom and look around the portraits of other judges and court officials and reflect on the fact that over the past century, your family has been prosecuting people here in this courtroom and many have received the death penalty. Probably for lesser conduct.
Remind me of the expression you gave on the witness stand? Oh, what a tangled web we weave. What did you mean by that?
Murdaugh: I meant when I lied I continued to lie.
Judge Newman: The question is when will it end? It’s ended already for the jury. They’ve concluded that you continued to lie and lie. There is nothing that could mitigate a sentence given the crimes that were committed. A notice of alibi was filed. You claimed to have been someplace else at the time the crime was committed.
Then after all the witnesses placed you at the scene of the crime, in the last minutes, you switched courses and admitted to being there. Then that necessitated more lies. You continued to lie.
Where will it end? It’s already ended for many. Within your own soul, you have to deal with that. You have to see Paul and Maggie during the nighttime when you’re attempting to go to sleep. I’m sure they come and visit you. I’m sure.
Murdaugh: All day and every night
Judge Newman: Yes I’m sure. They will continue to do so. I don’t know a person who’s always been so gregarious, a friendly person could cause their life to be tangled in such a weaved web... you turned from lawyer to witness. And now, have an opportunity to make your final appeal, as an ex-lawyer.
It’s almost, it’s really surprising. That you’re waiving this right at this time. If you opt to do so, it’s on you. You’re not compelled to say anything but you have the opportunity to do so.
Murdaugh: I respect this court but I am innocent. I would never under any circumstances hurt my wife Maggie or hurt my son Paul Paul.
Judge Newman: It might not have been you? It might have been the monster you become when you take 15, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 opioid pills. Maybe you become another person. I’ve seen that before. The person standing before me was not the person who committed the crime though it’s the same individual. We’ll leave that at that.
There are other victims whose cases deserve to be heard. And this case has jumped some of those other cases – perhaps jumped it because of this case resulting in the assault on the integrity of the judicial system in our state, law enforcement in our state. Even during this trial, law enforcement has been maligned for the past five or six weeks by one who had access to the wheels of justice to be able to deflect the investigation and, as evidence has pointed out in this case, the looming storm Mr. Waters talked about.
I can just imagine on that day June 7 when a lawyer was confronted and confesses to stealing over half a million dollars from a client and he has a tiger like Mark Tinsley on his tail pursuing discovery in the case involving the death of Mallory Beach. And having a father for the most part on his deathbed. I can imagine - I really can’t imagine - but I know it had to have been quite a bit going through your mind on that day.
But amazingly to have you come and testified that it was just another ordinary day – that ‘my wife and son and I’ were just out and enjoying life. Not credible. Not believable. You can convince yourself about it but you have had the inability to convince anyone else about that.
I sentence you to the state department of corrections on each of the murder indictments.
In the murder of your wife Maggie Murdaugh, I sentence you for the rest of your natural life.
For the murder of Paul Murdaugh, whom you probably loved so much, I sentence you to prison for murdering him for the rest of your natural life.
Those sentences will run consecutive.”