March 2, 2023 - Alex Murdaugh found guilty in the murder of his wife and son

By Elise Hammond, Adrienne Vogt, Matt Meyer, Tori Powell and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 11:33 PM ET, Thu March 2, 2023
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10:44 a.m. ET, March 2, 2023

Juror removed after improper conversations outside of the trial, judge says

From CNN’s Alta Spells and Adrienne Vogt

Judge Clifton Newman speaks in court on Thursday, March 2.
Judge Clifton Newman speaks in court on Thursday, March 2. (Pool)

On Thursday morning, Judge Clifton Newman announced that one juror would be removed and replaced by an alternate after a member of the public reached out to inform the court that the juror engaged in improper conversations with parties not associated with the case.

Newman said they interviewed the juror and interviewed two of the people who were believed to be involved. Both waffled on the nature and extent of the contact, said the judge before announcing that the juror would be removed.

"I've concluded that despite my order to not discuss the case with anyone, that intentionally or unintentionally, you've had some discussions with some folks not on the jury, which is going to require me to remove you from the jury," he said.

He then thanked the juror for their service.

“You have been a — by all accounts — a great juror and smiled consistently and seemingly been attentive to the case and performed well," he said.

"I certainly want to thank you for your service and not suggesting you intentionally did anything wrong, but in order to preserve the integrity of the process and in fairness to all the parties involved, we're going to replace you with one of the other jurors,” the judge continued.

Newman then asked the juror if she had left anything in the jury room, and she said “a dozen eggs and my purse,” to which the judge replied, “say that again, a dozen eggs?” leading to a burst of laughter in the courtroom.

1:06 p.m. ET, March 2, 2023

These were the prosecution's key points to the jury in its closing argument

From CNN staff

Prosecutor Creighton Waters speaks during closing arguments on Wednesday, March 1.
Prosecutor Creighton Waters speaks during closing arguments on Wednesday, March 1. (Joshua Boucher/The State/AP)

State prosecutors said in closing arguments of Alex Murdaugh’s murder trial Wednesday that he was the only person who had the motive, means and opportunity to kill his wife and son in June 2021 – and that his lies afterward betrayed him.

“People lie because they know they did something wrong. That’s why he lied, ladies and gentlemen,” prosecutor Creighton Waters said.

The prosecution described the weeks and months leading up to the murders of Alex Murdaugh’s wife and son as a “gathering storm" which came to head on the night of the killings.

In the prosecution’s telling, the motive was Murdaugh’s attempt to distract and delay investigations into his growing financial problems. The means were two family-owned weapons, Waters argued. And the opportunity was Murdaugh’s presence at the crime scene, as revealed in a pivotal video, minutes before the murders.

“This defendant… has fooled everyone, everyone, everyone who thought they were close to him,” Waters told the jury. “Everyone who thought they knew who he was, he’s fooled them all. He fooled Maggie and Paul too, and they paid for it with their lives. Don’t let him fool you, too.”

How the shootings played out: Waters described what he said was the scene when Paul and Maggie were fatally shot. He said after Paul was hit, Maggie was shot twice at close range when she ran over to him. She is then shot a third time where the bullet goes through the left side of her head, Waters said. Maggie is then shot for a fourth time in the back of the head, he said.

An alibi: Waters argued to the jury that Alex Murdaugh was "manufacturing an alibi" by calling and texting his wife and son, among others, after they were killed. He said any "reasonable person" would remember the last conversation they had with their loved one if they were killed, but argued that Murdaugh "lies convincingly and easily and he can do it as a drop of a hat."

The prosecutor also noted the kinds of questions Murdaugh asked law enforcement after the murders. He said one of the first things Murdaugh did was point out to police how many phone calls he made that night.

The big picture: The prosecution’s focus on Murdaugh’s financial motive and lies underscores the lack of any direct evidence, such as a murder weapon, bloody clothing or eyewitnesses, that connects Murdaugh to the killings. Instead, they have hinged their case on circumstantial evidence, including the consequential video placing Murdaugh at the crime scene that night.

Watch here:

9:12 a.m. ET, March 2, 2023

Who's who in court as the defense starts its closing argument

From CNN's Melissa Gray

Prosecutor Creighton Waters, right, speaks during Alex Murdaugh's trial on Monday, February 27.
Prosecutor Creighton Waters, right, speaks during Alex Murdaugh's trial on Monday, February 27. (Jeff Blake/The State/AP)

Disgraced South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh is on trial for murder in connection to the killing of his wife and son. The defense is set to present its closing argument today.

Murdaugh has pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.

Here are the key people to know as the trial comes to a close:

  • Clifton Newman: The South Carolina Circuit Court judge hearing the case. He has been on the bench since 2000. Newman has presided over various proceedings in the Murdaugh case since 2021.
  • Alex Murdaugh: Now disbarred, Murdaugh is a member of a prominent legal family in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Three generations of his family over 87 years have served as solicitors for the 14th Circuit, which oversaw prosecutions throughout the area.
  • Margaret (Maggie) and Paul Murdaugh: Alex Murdaugh’s wife, Maggie, was 52 when she was found fatally shot with the couple’s younger son, Paul, at the family’s Moselle estate on June 7, 2021. At the time of the shooting, Paul was facing charges in relation to the boating accident that killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach, court records show. He had pleaded not guilty, and the charges were dropped after his death.

The prosecution:

  • Creighton Waters: South Carolina senior assistant deputy attorney general and lead prosecutor. He has been involved with the case since 2021. The state attorney general’s office is prosecuting the case because of the Murdaugh family’s close ties to the local solicitor’s office.
  • John Meadors: A veteran attorney who worked for the Attorney General’s Office for four years before retiring from the Fifth Circuit Solicitor’s Office in 2012. He has tried hundreds of murder trials and was hired by the US Attorney’s Office in early January.

The defense:

  • Richard "Dick" Harpootlian: One of Murdaugh’s defense attorneys. Harpootlian is a South Carolina state senator and attorney whose Columbia-based practice specializes in criminal defense.
  • Jim Griffin: Another one of Murdaugh’s defense attorneys. A former federal prosecutor, he now works as a state and federal criminal defense attorney based in Columbia, South Carolina.
  • Phillip Barber: An associate attorney at Harpootlian’s law firm who is part of Murdaugh’s defense team.
9:07 a.m. ET, March 2, 2023

Murdaugh faces other legal and financial problems. Here's a timeline of how the killings fit in

From CNN's Amir Vera and Eric Levenson

Alex Murdaugh gives testimony in court in Walterboro, South Carolina, on Thursday, February 23.
Alex Murdaugh gives testimony in court in Walterboro, South Carolina, on Thursday, February 23. (Grace Beahm Alford/The Post And Courier/AP)

For 87 years, the Murdaugh family name came to represent a legal dynasty in coastal South Carolina, where three successive generations controlled the local prosecutor’s office.

But that has all fallen apart in recent years. Now, among other legal and financial problems, Alex Murdaugh is on trial after being accused of killing his wife and son.

Here's a look at the timeline:

June 2021

  • June 7: Alex Murdaugh calls 911 and reports he found his wife Margaret (known as Maggie), 52, and son Paul, 22, shot dead outside of their home in Islandton, a small community about an hour north of Hilton Head Island, according to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.
  • June 15: The state law enforcement division releases basic information about the killings, saying Murdaugh called 911 at 10:07 p.m. and investigators collected evidence that night and the next morning.
  • June 22: The state law enforcement division reopens an investigation into the unsolved death of 19-year-old Stephen Smith, whose body was found on the road in 2015 in Hampton County. The agency says the probe is being reopened based on information gathered while investigating the deaths of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh.
  • June 25: Alex Murdaugh and his other son, Buster, announce a $100,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the person or persons responsible for the killings of Maggie and Paul.
  • July 22: The state law enforcement division releases redacted audio of Alex Murdaugh’s 911 call the night of the killings. In the audio, a distraught Murdaugh advises dispatchers his wife and son had been shot, are on the ground and are not breathing.

September 2021

  • September 3: Alex Murdaugh resigns from the law firm Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Detrick (PMPED), according to the firm.
  • September 4: Murdaugh calls 911 and reports he was shot that afternoon on a road in Hampton County, according to a SLED spokesman. He was taken to a hospital in Savannah, Georgia, where he was treated for a “superficial gunshot wound to the head,” the statement said.
  • September 6: Murdaugh releases a statement through his attorney, Dick Harpootlian, to WCSC saying he is resigning from the law firm and entering rehab. Murdaugh’s other attorney, Jim Griffin, later specifies that his client has an opioid addiction.
  • September 7: The law firm says Murdaugh resigned “after the discovery by PMPED that Alex misappropriated funds in violation of PMPED standards and policies.”
  • September 8: The South Carolina Supreme Court issues an order suspending Alex Murdaugh’s license to practice law in the state.

July 2022

  • July 12: The South Carolina Supreme Court disbars Alex Murdaugh, according to an order released by the court.
  • July 14: Alex Murdaugh is indicted on two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime in connection with the 2021 killing of his wife and son by a Colleton County grand jury, according to South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson and South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel.
  • July 20: Murdaugh pleaded not guilty to the murders of his wife and son.

You can read the full timeline — with everything we know about Murdaugh's other legal and financial challenges — here.