Details of the jury deliberations in the Alex Murdaugh case
The Colleton County jury spent 28 days on duty determining the fate of attorney Richard Alexander “Alex” Murdaugh, 54, whose trial ended Thursday afternoon.
The 54-year-old legal scion from South Carolina – disgraced and disfellowshipped shortly after the murder charges and alleged financial shortcomings emerged – is accused of shooting and killing his wife Margaret “Maggie” Murdaugh, 52, and their youngest son Paul Murdaugh, 22, in early June 2021 with a rifle and shotgun.
“You heard the testimony, received the evidence, and heard the arguments of the State and the defendant,” Judge Clifton Newman told the 12 jurors, seven men and five women.
The court read from a long set of instructions and assigned the jury their task: They will write the verdict on the back of each of the four charges against Alex Murdaugh.
“They are the finders of the facts in this case,” the judge said. “It is up to you, the jury, to decide that.”
The judge said the defendant faces two counts of murder for each victim and two counts of possession of a weapon while committing a violent crime. The judge stated that the jury must determine that Alex Murdaugh intentionally killed his family, a legal artifice central to many definitions of murder in many US jurisdictions.
“Malice is hatred, malice, or animosity toward another person,” Newman said. “It is the intentional commission of an unlawful act without good cause or excuse – and with intent to cause harm or in circumstances where the law suggests malicious intent.”
SEE ALSO: ‘He Turned Family Killer’: Prosecutors Deliver Lengthy Closing Statement Against Accused Killer Alex Murdaugh
Newman said the jury must decide based on the “impact, value and weight of the evidence” presented at the trial.
“You may only consider the statements from that witness stand,” the judge stated, along with other evidence presented at the trial, including any agreements between the state and the defense.
“The attorney’s statements are not evidence,” Newman warned the jury. He asked them to consider evidence based on their understanding and memory of what happened at the trial.
Lead Prosecutor Creighton Waters closed the case for the state, attorney Jim Griffin appeared for the defense, and the state’s final rebuttal came from veteran prosecutor John Meadors.
The court then briefed the jury on the basic rights afforded to defendants and the standard for determining their guilt or innocence in the US state and wider US legal system.
“The presumption of innocence is like a robe of justice placed around the accused’s shoulders — which stays with the accused until it is removed from the accused by evidence which convinces you of that guilt beyond any reasonable doubt,” Newman said. “The presumption of innocence is not a mere legal theory. It’s not just a legal phrase. It is an essential right that every defendant is entitled to. Unless you, the jury, are satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt by the evidence of the defendant’s guilt.”
“There are very few things in this world that we know with absolute certainty,” Newman said. “And in criminal cases, the law does not require proof that overcomes every possible doubt. If you are firmly convinced of a suspected crime based on your assessment of the evidence, you must find him guilty. On the other hand, if you believe there is a real possibility that he is not guilty, then if there is any doubt you must agree with him and find him not guilty.”
SEE ALSO: ‘They Started Fabricating Evidence’: Defense Attorney Alleges South Carolina Cops Framed Alex Murdaugh
The defense asked that an alternate juror be kept at the courthouse in case something happened to one of the jurors. The state has waived this request. Alex Murdaugh rose and told the judge he wanted to keep the deputy close.
Newman also urged jurors not to use electronic devices to research media about the case and implored them to limit the use of electronic devices for other purposes, even if they cannot reach a verdict by the end of the day Thursday.
The court has directed the jury to deliberate until 10:00 p.m. EST on Thursday. They will not be confiscated if their discussions last for several days. In addition, the court said, “There are no plans to order dinner for the jury.” They will be offered coffee, tea, water and snacks.
According to Law&Crime correspondent Gigi McKelvey, Alex Murdaugh’s defense team said the jury would not be deliberating over the weekend. If their decision remains elusive on Friday afternoon, they will not return to court until Monday.
The deliberations are allowed to continue until 4 p.m. Friday, the defense told reporters outside the courthouse.
“No one will have the right to criticize your verdict,” the judge said before sending off the 12. “You have no friends to reward or enemies to punish.”
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