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Prosecutors Won’t Seek The Death Penalty For Alex Murdaugh

"After carefully reviewing this case and all the surrounding facts, we have decided to seek life without parole for Alex Murdaugh,” South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said Tuesday while announcing the state's decision.

By Jill Sederstrom
The Alex Murdaugh Case, Explained

Prosecutors will not seek the death penalty for Alex Murdaugh, the disgraced former attorney accused of killing his wife and youngest son.

“After carefully reviewing this case and all the surrounding facts, we have decided to seek life without parole for Alex Murdaugh,” South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said Tuesday in a statement regarding the decision. “Because this is a pending case, we cannot comment further.”

Murdaugh, 54, is slated to go to trial next month for the murder of his wife Maggie, 52, and son Paul, 22, after both were found shot to death on the family’s vast Colleton County estate in June 2021.

In a statement to Oxygen.com, Murdaugh’s attorneys Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin said they were pleased with the prosecutor’s decision not to pursue capital punishment in the high-profile case.

RELATED: Disgraced Former Attorney Alex Murdaugh Is Hit With New Tax Evasion Charges

“We are not surprised but also welcome the decision to not seek the death penalty for Alex Murdaugh,” they said. “Now there is no impediment for going ahead with the trial scheduled for January 23, when we look forward to evidence, not leaks, determining the outcome.”

As the trial date looms, prosecutors and Murdaugh’s defense team have continued to volley back and forth in a series of revealing motions.

Earlier this month, after Murdaugh’s defense team filed a motion for a “bill of particulars” asking prosecutors to reveal the alleged motive in the murders, prosecutors responded by laying out their theory of what they believe led Murdaugh — a once prominent attorney in South Carolina’s low country — to kill his family members.

Alex Murdaugh sits in the Colleton County Courthouse

They alleged in the court documents that he killed Maggie and Paul to cover up years of alleged financial crimes and fraud, fearing the misdeeds were about to come to light.

“Ultimately, the murders served as Murdaugh’s means to shift the focus away from himself and buy himself some additional time to try and prevent his financial crimes from being uncovered, which — if revealed — would have resulted in personal, legal, and financial ruin for Murdaugh,” Senior Assistant Deputy Attorney General Creighton Waters wrote in the motion previously obtained by Oxygen.com.

In addition to the murder charges, Murdaugh is also facing 99 charges laid out in 19 different indictments accusing him of schemes to defraud his former law firm, clients and others of nearly $8.8 million in a years-long deception, including nine new counts filed last week accusing him of tax evasion.

Prosecutors have filed a motion asking Circuit Judge Clifton Newman to include evidence of the financial crimes in the upcoming murder trial because they believe the mounting pressure Murdaugh was facing as his law firm began to get suspicious of his activities and an upcoming hearing for a civil suit lodged after his son Paul was involved in a deadly 2019 boat crash threatened to expose his alleged misdeeds.

The murders, prosecutors argued, took the focus off Murdaugh.

“People immediately treated Defendant as the victim of an unspeakable tragedy. Everyone backed off of their inquiries and rallied around him,” they wrote, adding that the “day of reckoning vanished.”

On Monday, Murdaugh’s defense team filed a motion opposing prosecutors request to admit the financial crimes evidence, arguing “prior bad acts” should not be admissible under the state law and contending that it could create “unfair prejudice” amongst the jury, The Greenville News reports.

They called the state’s theory that Murdaugh had killed his family members because he wanted to attract attention away from himself “illogical and implausible.”

“There is zero evidentiary support for this motive and it is nothing more than a transparent effort to improperly persuade the jury that Murdaugh is a person of such bad character that he can commit the most heinous crimes imaginable,” they wrote.

His defense team was handed a legal victory Monday after Newman order prosecutors to produce materials and communication related to the expert opinion of Tom Bevel of Bevel, Garner & Associates, LLC, according to the order obtained by Oxygen.com.

Bevel, a retired commander with the Oklahoma City Police Department who now serves as an expert in bloodstain pattern analysis, is said to have examined a white T-shirt Murdaugh had been wearing on the night of the murders.

Murdaugh’s defense team has argued in prior motions that Bevel initially found no traces of human blood on the shirt, but was later pressured to change his opinion after doing a second analysis using only photos of the t-shirt, Charleston NBC affiiate WCBD reports.

Prosecutors did not object to handing over the materials, Newman wrote.