High-profile US lawyer convicted of murdering wife and son

Alex Murdaugh was a high-profile lawyer from a wealthy family but the picture unravelled after he was caught stealing money from the family law firm.

Is allowance instantly strangers applauded

A prominent US lawyer, Alex Murdaugh has been convicted of murdering his wife and son after a six-week trial that revealed the lawyer's spectacular fall from grace.

The 54-year-old shot his wife Margaret, 52, four or five times with a rifle outside dog kennels on their rural Colleton County property in South Carolina on 7 June 2021.

On the same day, he shot his 22-year-old son Paul twice with a shotgun.

Prosecutors had said the lawyer, from a well-known and wealthy family, carried out the killings in an effort to distract from the fact he had been stealing from the family firm to feed his drug habit.

The jury deliberated for less than three hours after hearing from more than 75 witnesses and considering nearly 800 pieces of evidence.

They were told about friends and clients who Murdaugh had betrayed, his failed attempt to stage his own death in a multi-million dollar insurance fraud scheme, a fatal boat crash in which his son was implicated, the housekeeper who fell to her death in the family's home, the scene of the killings and Bubba, the chicken-snatching Labrador

But it was a mobile phone video shot by his son Paul that appeared to seal his fate - Paul filmed the video minutes before his death and witnesses testified that it captured the voices of all three family members.

This was important because, for a long time, Murdaugh had told police he was asleep when his wife and son were attacked.

'I had to keep lying'

In court he admitted joining them at the kennels, however, saying he had taken a chicken from Bubba before returning to the house shortly before the shootings.

When asked why he had insisted for so long that he had been asleep, he said his addiction to opioids had made him paranoid and distrusting of police.

Once he had lied the first time, he felt trapped, he said, adding: "Oh what a tangled web we weave - once I told a lie, I told my family, I had to keep lying."

'A century of corruption, power and cover-ups'

Murdaugh admitted stealing millions of dollars from clients but insisted he had not killed his wife and son.

"I would never hurt Maggie, and I would never hurt Paul - ever - under any circumstances," he said.

Experts from both sides agreed there must have been a lot of blood at the scene but the prosecution did not present any evidence of blood on clothing.

The murder weapons have also never been found.

Murdaugh's father, grandfather and great-grandfather were elected prosecutors in the area for more than eight decades, and the family law firm built its reputation on suing big businesses.

He will be sentenced later and faces 30 years to life in prison without parole.

The story features in a Netflix documentary series - Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal, which is billed as showing "how two murders reveal a century of corruption, power, and cover-ups in South Carolina".