Alex Murdaugh, a prominent South Carolina lawyer, was sentenced to life in prison on Friday for the murders of his wife and son on their hunting estate in a case whose twists and turns drew global attention.
Judge Clifton Newman sentenced Murdaugh, scion of an elite family of judges and attorneys, to consecutive life terms without parole for the June 7, 2021 murders of his son Paul and his wife Maggie.
Dismissing Murdaugh’s claims of innocence as “not credible,” the judge told the disgraced attorney he must “see Paul and Maggie during the night times when you’re attempting to go to sleep.”
“I’m sure they come and visit you,” the judge said.
“All day and every night,” replied the lanky red-haired Murdaugh, who was dressed in a tan prison jumpsuit and wearing handcuffs and ankle shackles.
A jury in Walterboro, South Carolina, deliberated for less than three hours before finding Murdaugh guilty on Thursday after a six-week televised trial that gripped the nation.
Netflix and HBO rushed out documentaries on the case before it was even over.
Craig Moyer, a carpenter who served on the jury, told ABC News that Murdaugh came across as a “big liar” who did not show any “true remorse or any compassion.”
According to the prosecution, Murdaugh shot his wife and son after realizing his years of stealing millions of dollars from his law firm and from clients to feed his hidden opioid addiction was about to go public.
The 54-year-old Murdaugh briefly addressed the court during the sentencing in a packed courtroom that included his surviving son, Buster, who testified in his defense.
“I’m innocent. I would never hurt my wife Maggie. And I would never hurt my son Paw Paw,” he said, using his son’s nickname.
“It might not have been you,” the judge responded. “It might have been the monster you become when you take 15, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 opioid pills.”
Prosecutor Creighton Waters urged the judge to impose the maximum of life in prison on a man he called a “cunning manipulator.”
“The depravity, the callousness, the selfishness of these crimes, are stunning,” Waters said. “He violated the trust of so many, including his friends, his family, his partners, his profession, and most of all, Maggie and Paul.”
During the sentencing, the judge noted that Murdaugh’s family had “controlled justice in this community for over a century” and “many have received the death penalty — probably for lesser conduct” than in this case.
Belarus on Friday handed a 10-year jail term to Nobel Prize-winning activist Ales Bialiatski, drawing strong international condemnation.
Bialiatski, who founded the authoritarian nation’s most prominent rights group, has repeatedly run into trouble with security forces in Belarus, which is often described as “Europe’s last dictatorship”.
He was in the dock with two allies after they were jailed in the aftermath of historic demonstrations against the disputed re-election of the country’s strongman President Alexander Lukashenko in 2020.
The 60-year-old and his associates had been convicted of smuggling and financing “activities that grossly violate public order”, said the Viasna (Spring) rights group founded by Bialiatski.
Bialiatski was on Friday handed a 10-year sentence, while co-defendants Valentin Stefanovich and Vladimir Labkovich were given nine and seven years in prison respectively.
“These are very cruel sentences, for all of them,” Bialiatski’s wife Natalya Pinchuk said in comments released by Viasna. “The terms are horrific.”
Labkovich’s wife Nina said her family had not expected “a miracle.”
“Still, this hurts very much. It’s not possible to accept this,” she added.