WALTERBORO, SC—Disbarred attorney Alex Murdo took the stand to testify in his own defense Thursday, marking a remarkable turnaround in his double-murder trial.
“I want to testify,” Mr. Murdo said Thursday when District Court Judge Clifton Newman advised Mr. Murdo of his rights.
Mr Murdo is accused of fatally shooting his wife Maggie Murdo and son Paul on a rainy summer night in 2021 at the family’s hunting estate known as Moselle. Mr. Murdo was jailed for more than a year on a total of 99 charges, mostly related to allegedly defrauding his personal injury clients out of $8.8 million over a decade, but also related to alleged drug trafficking. money laundering and insurance fraud.
Mr. Murdo has pleaded not guilty to the murder charge and most of the other charges against him.
After weeks of debate in the defense camp, Mr. Murdoch and his lawyers made a last-minute decision that he would testify, according to a source familiar with the team’s thinking. Mr. Murdo wants the jury to hear from him that he may have done a lot of bad things and lied over the past decade, but he did not kill his wife and son, according to a source familiar with the defense’s thinking.
Jurors have already heard hours of Mr Murdo’s statements in the form of four taped interviews played during the trial.
In the early morning hours of June 8, 2021, just after Mr. Murdo discovered the bodies of Maggie and Paul, he spoke to investigators from the front seat of a police SUV. He then tearfully told them he had been gone for a long time and hadn’t seen Maggie and Paul before he left, a statement that was contradicted by a video taken by Paul at 8:44 p.m., minutes before prosecutors announced the fatal shooting. .
Mr. Murdo repeated that he had not seen them in interviews recorded on June 10, 2021, and August 11, 2021, a lie that prosecutors reminded jurors over and over again.
In a fourth interview with the South Carolina Department of Law Enforcement, recorded from a detox facility in suburban Atlanta in September 2021, jurors heard Mr. Murdo admit to stealing money from his clients with physical injuries. And Mr. Murdo said that over Labor Day weekend in 2021, he tried to stage his own murder by hiring an accomplice to shoot him. His lawyers said the attempted assisted suicide was designed to secure a life insurance payout for his surviving son, Buster, 26.
In the SLED interview, he expressed regret that he had lied to investigators repeatedly during the course of the investigation.
So far in the trial, Attorney General Creighton Waters has tried to paint a picture of Mr. Murdo as a desperate man who the state says killed his wife and son to garner sympathy and avoid uncovering a long-running financial scam. An administrator at the Murdoes’ law firm testified that hours before the June 7, 2021, murders, she confronted Mr. Murdo about a missing $792,000 fee.
The defense argued that the state had failed to present direct evidence that Mr. Murdow killed his wife and son. His lawyers said the state’s case against Mr Murdow – Judge Newman ultimately gave the prosecution wide latitude to talk about alleged financial wrongdoing – amounted to character assassination.
His lawyers on Thursday asked Judge Newman to bar the state from asking Mr. Murdo about the allegations of financial wrongdoing during his scheduled testimony. The judge denied the request, and Mr. Murdo still said he was willing to take the stand.
“Do you need any additional time to speak to Mr. Murdo?” Judge Newman asked defense attorney Dick Harpoutlian.
“He’s showing he doesn’t need to talk to me,” Mr. Harputlian said. “It hurts my feelings, but we don’t need a break.”
Email Joshua Jamerson at [email protected] and Valerie Bauerlein at [email protected]
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