Former South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh testifies in own defense in double murder trial

Written by on February 23, 2023

Disbarred attorney Richard “Alex” Murdaugh told a South Carolina judge Thursday he will testify in his own defense in the double murder trial over the death of his wife and son.

Murdaugh, 54, is charged with murder in connection with the 2021 fatal shootings of 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh and 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh. He has pleaded not guilty.

“I am going to testify,” Murdaugh said in court Thursday, before another witness for the defense was briefly called to the stand. “I want to testify.”

Defense attorney Jim Griffin asked Judge Clifton Newman Wednesday if Murdaugh would be able to use his Fifth Amendment rights against incriminating himself in the nearly 100 other allegations he faces including stealing from clients, money laundering, tax evasion and insurance fraud. Newman said prosecutors generally get wide latitude in cross examination.

The South Carolina Attorney General’s Office is seeking life in prison if Murdaugh is convicted.

Murdaugh admits to lying to SLED 

At about 10:45 a.m. Thursday, Murdaugh took the stand and vehemently denied shooting his wife and son on June 7, 2021, at the family’s property in Colleton County South Carolina. 

“I didn’t shoot my wife or my son any time, ever,” he said under questioning by his attorney. “I would never intentionally do anything to hurt either one of them. Ever. Ever.”

Murdaugh admitted his voice could be heard on a cellphone video taken at the kennels where Maggie and Paul were killed about five minutes before the shootings, and that he repeatedly lied to South Carolina Law Enforcement Division investigators about that last time he saw his wife and son, who he referred to by nicknames “Mags” and “Pau-Pau” on the stand.

Murdaugh, appearing at times emotional and at a loss for words, told defense attorney Jim Griffin that he lied to SLED agents about his whereabouts the night of the murders because of his distrust for the agency and paranoia induced by drug addiction. Murdaugh was treated after the murders for oxycodone dependence.

“I did lie to them,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking clearly. I don’t think I was capable of reason and I lied about being down there and I’m so sorry that I did.”

Asked why he continued to lie to law enforcement after the murders, Murdaugh lamented, “What a tangled web we weave.” 

Murdaugh testifies about the day of the murders

Murdaugh recounted the day of the killings, saying he met with Paul after work to spend time together on their property. He addressed a Snapchat video taken by his son that shows Murdaugh wearing different clothes than those he was later seen in by responding officers.

Murdaugh said he showered and changed clothes after getting sweaty from moving around the property and taking drugs. An investigator previously testified that despite Murdaugh telling police he checked Paul’s bloodied body for a pulse, it appeared he had fresh clothes on the night of the murders.

After spending time with the family’s dogs in the kennels, Murdaugh said he returned to the house, then went to visit his ailing mother. After returning from his mother’s, Murdaugh said stopped briefly in her driveway before driving home.

“During that minute or however long it was, were you disposing of murder weapons?” Griffin asked.

“No,” Murdaugh replied.

“Were you disposing of bloody clothes?” Griffin asked.

“No,” Murdaugh said.

Murdaugh broke down as he recounted driving down to the kennels and discovering the bodies of his wife and son. He testified that he called 911 as he tried to “tend” to Maggie and Paul.

“Paul was so – he was so bad,” Murdaugh said. “I know I tried to check him for a pulse. I know I tried to turn him over.”

Murdaugh said his son’s phone fell out of his pocket while he was trying to turn him over and he put the phone back on his body. Murdaugh said he could not remember exactly where he touched his wife’s body.

“It was bad, it was terrible,” he said.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Contributing: Anna Kaufman, USA TODAY; Michael Dewitt, Jr., Greenville News; The Associated Press

Contact Breaking News Reporter N’dea Yancey-Bragg at or follow her on Twitter @NdeaYanceyBragg

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