Prosecutor Says Alex Murdaugh's Decision to Take Stand Was 'Fatal' Mistake: That's 'What Sealed It for Him'

Found guilty of murder, the disgraced South Carolina attorney was given two life sentences for killing his wife and son

Alex Murdaugh, center, is led out of Colleton County Courthouse by sheriff's deputies after being convicted, in Walterboro, S.C.
Alex Murdaugh (center). Photo: Chris Carlson/AP/Shutterstock

Taking the stand in his high-profile double murder trial was the worst decision Alex Murdaugh could have ever made, says South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson.

"I think Alex Murdaugh was our biggest piece of evidence when he took the stand," Wilson told Craig Melvin on NBC News' TODAY show in an interview after Thursday's guilty verdict.

"I think that was fatal for him, ultimately," said Wilson who oversaw the prosecution of the once-respected Lowcountry attorney who will now spend the rest of his life behind bars.

On Thursday, after just three hours of deliberation, a Colleton County jury found Murdaugh, 54, guilty of the murders of his wife, Maggie, 52, and son, Paul, 22.

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On Friday morning, Judge Clifton Newman sentenced Murdaugh to two life sentences in prison, and the sentences will run consecutively.

Murdaugh faced two counts of murder and two weapons charges for the June 7, 2021 shootings of his wife and son near the dog kennels of the family's, 1,770-acre hunting estate.

Authorities said that he killed his wife and son as personal and financial struggles became overwhelming.

Paul was shot in the chest and head with a shotgun at close range. Maggie was shot multiple times, including once in the back and again while she was lying on the ground.

She had been shot with 300 Blackout ammo from an AR-style rifle.

Both were pronounced dead at the scene.

Toward the end of the six-week trial, Murdaugh — who has tried cases as a prosecutor in the same court in which he was tried for the double murders — surprised many when he took the stand in his own defense.

"I believe in my mind that he believed that he could talk his way out of this," Wilson told Melvin. "And at the end of the day, I think (taking the stand) is what sealed it for him."

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Murdaugh's defense team argued that he was visiting his ailing mother at the time of the murders.

He initially told investigators that he wasn't near the dog kennels.

But a Snapchat video taken by Paul that fateful night showed that he had been at the scene at 8:44 p.m. — just five minutes before authorities say Maggie and Paul were murdered.

Taking the stand in his own defense, Murdaugh admitted that he had lied about his whereabouts, and cited his mistrust of police and paranoia that stemmed from a 20-year opioid addiction.

This lie was the "nail" that sealed Murdaugh's fate, Wilson said.

"That kennel video that no one knew existed until months after the murders occurred," he said. "It was basically Paul speaking from beyond the grave.

"That, yes, Alex Murdaugh was there just moments before Maggie and Paul were brutally murdered. That was a major piece of the state's case."

Talking about why the case mesmerized the nation, Wilson said, "I think people were just captivated by not just the complexity, but it was a sensational case on the national stage," he said.

"I want to remind people that there are real lives and a real family that was destroyed because of his actions."

RELATED VIDEO: Judge Clifton Newman Sentences Alex Murdaugh to 2 Life Sentences

Murdaugh has more upcoming legal woes. He faces dozens of charges for alleged financial crimes, including misappropriating money from his law firm, defrauding clients of funds and computer crimes.

Authorities allege that he also defrauded the family of his former housekeeper out of a $4.5 million insurance settlement after she died in a mysterious slip-and-fall accident at his home. A trial for those charges will be held at a later date.

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