Is Murdaugh’s testimony what persuaded jury? Experts debate

(NewsNation) — A week after he took the stand in his own defense, Alex Murdaugh was found guilty of killing his wife and son on their South Carolina property in 2021. Is his testimony what ultimately persuaded jurors to convict him?

Several legal analysts believe so.

Murdaugh, the patriarch of a once-powerhouse legal dynasty in South Carolina, admitted to numerous financial crimes at the trial, telling jurors that he did indeed steal millions from his legal clients. But he argued that makes him only a thief, not a killer.

Alan Dershowitz, a prominent attorney who worked on O.J. Simpson’s defense team 30 years ago, called Murdaugh’s decision a risky move.

“Once the defendant testifies in front of the jury, the rest of the case takes a minor role,” Dershowitz said. “No matter what the evidence is, jurors look the defendant in the eye, and they come a quick conclusion: Is this defendant credible, or isn’t he? And that’s what determines the outcome.”

Prosecutors took more than a year to charge the disgraced lawyer with murder, but they ultimately decided not to pursue the death penalty. He was also charged with about 100 counts of financial and other crimes related to his legal practice and funds that he admitted he stole.

Authorities said Paul Murdaugh, 22, was shot twice with a shotgun, each round loaded with a different size shot, while Maggie Murdaugh, 52, was struck with four or five bullets from a rifle. A crime scene report suggested both victims were shot in the head after initially being wounded near dog kennels on the Murdaughs’ sprawling rural property.

The case began on June 7, 2021, when Murdaugh said he returned home to the family’s sprawling hunting estate after visiting his ailing mother and found his wife and son dead.

The jury took just under three hours to deliberate.

Prominent jury consultant Susan Constantine believes the decision came so quick likely because jurors had made up their minds before deliberations began.

“The minute he took the stand, he hung himself,” Constantine said. “When he opened up his mouth and he could not continue the lie … and then what happened is the lies tended to fold over one another, and he couldn’t get himself out of it.”

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