Judge Sentences Alex Murdaugh to Life and Condemns His ‘Lies’

There were questions for some across the state as to whether the Attorney General’s decision not to seek the death penalty was a final moment in which Mr. Murdaugh could exercise the privilege of his position.

“We currently have people waiting to be executed who have done things far less gruesome and violent than what Alex Murdaugh did,” said Joshua Snow Kendrick, a South Carolina attorney who has multiple clients represented on death row. “That probably helps show how arbitrary the death penalty is.”

Mr. Kendrick said that many death row prisoners who were born into impoverished or troubled families never had the opportunity to make the connections that Mr. Murdaugh had. Mr. Murdaugh had also hired a strong legal team, including an incumbent state senator, Dick Harpootlian, who is also a former leader of South Carolina’s Democratic Party.

In South Carolina, as in many other states, death row prisoners are disproportionately black. According to the state Department of Corrections, about half of the 35 people awaiting execution are black, even though blacks make up only about a quarter of the total population.

Prosecutors said a number of factors led them to decide a month before the trial not to pursue the death penalty in Mr Murdaugh’s case, including the cost and complexity of such a case, the uncertain legal landscape surrounding executions in South Carolina and the longer trial required in death penalty cases.

“He’s 54 years old, and if you know anything about the death penalty, it doesn’t happen overnight,” Creighton Waters, the deputy assistant attorney general who led the prosecution, said in an interview after the sentencing. “To carry on as we did – without the added complications of a death penalty trial – and put him in prison for the rest of his life seemed like the right way to go.”

Some attorneys said the decision was a wise legal move and may have been motivated by an issue prosecutors may have been reluctant to say out loud: The case against Mr Murdaugh was largely based on circumstantial evidence, and the crime had remained unsolved for more than a year, a sign that it was a long way from open prosecution. In cases with no witnesses or confession, juries are often cautious about sentence a defendant to death, they said.

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/03/us/alex-murdaugh-murder-sentencing.html Judge Sentences Alex Murdaugh to Life and Condemns His ‘Lies’


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