Alex Murdaugh made a desperate confession to avoid a murder conviction. It likely sentenced him to 700 extra years

Exclusive: Prominent attorney Duncan Levin tells Rachel Sharp that even if Murdaugh’s planned appeal of his murder conviction is successful, he’s still destined to spend his life behind bars

Thursday 16 March 2023 11:46 GMT
APTOPIX Murdaugh Killings
APTOPIX Murdaugh Killings

Alex Murdaugh has left himself with no escape from a lifetime behind bars after he admitted to a string of financial crimes under oath at his murder trial.

Murdaugh was found guilty of murdering his wife Maggie and son Paul at the family’s $4m Moselle estate in Islandton and has been sentenced to life in prison in South Carolina.

Despite his conviction, Murdaugh continues to profess his innocence – even when given a last-ditch chance to confess at his sentencing hearing.

His legal team of State Senator Dick Harpootlian and friend Jim Griffin have already vowed to fight the guilty verdict, by appealing the case all the way up to the US Supreme Court.

But, as prominent attorney Duncan Levin told The Independent this week, it won’t make any difference.

For one, Mr Levin is doubtful an appeal would be successful.

“I don’t see any basis for an appeal. When he took the stand he erased any real chance of error as he said it in his own words,” said the former assistant district attorney in the Manhattan DA’s office and prominent criminal defence attorney at Levin & Associates who has represented clients including Harvey Weinstein and Anna Delvey.

And secondly, even if an appeal were successful, Mr Levin said that Murdaugh has sentenced himself to life in prison after implicating himself in a slew of financial fraud crimes.

“He will spend the rest of his life in prison – there’s no getting out of this at this point,” he said.

“Not only has he been convicted of two heinous murders, but he has also implicated himself in financial crimes to give himself a lifetime in prison.”

Separate from the murder case, Murdaugh is facing a staggering 99 charges - punishable by up to 700 years in prison - for stealing at least $8.7m from settlements from dozens of legal clients he represented through his law firm PMPED.

Alex Murdaugh is cross examined by prosecutor Creighton Waters
Alex Murdaugh is cross examined by prosecutor Creighton Waters (AP)

The alleged schemes date back as far as 2011. They are detailed in a collection of 19 separate indictments in cases that have not yet gone to trial, but the crimes surfaced as a motive during his double murder trial.

Prosecutors said that Murdaugh killed his wife and son to distract from his financial crimes which were on the brink of being exposed.

When Murdaugh then took the witness stand to testify in his own defence, he confessed to stealing from PMPED and at least 18 law firm clients.

These confessions – while testifying under oath – are likely to now have major ramifications in the fraud cases.

“He had to admit to committing other crimes in his testimony and that’s part of the problem with him testifying,” said Mr Levin.

“At this time he’s already facing two life sentences.”

Having worked as a defence lawyer on numerous high-profile cases, Mr Levin said it was certainly “unusual” to see a defendant confess to other crimes on the stand.

“But then most people are not engaged in a lifetime of pervasive crime so it’s an unusual situation where he is not only facing double murders charges but also a slew of financial crimes lasting a lifetime,” he said.

“So it is unusual [to confess to other crimes on the stand] but everything about this case is unusual.”

Incriminating himself in a string of financial fraud crimes isn’t the only reason that Murdaugh’s decision to testify was a “colossal mistake”, said the legal expert.

Buster, Maggie, Paul and Alex Murdaugh left to right
Buster, Maggie, Paul and Alex Murdaugh left to right (Maggie Murdaugh/Facebook)

Mr Levin described Murdaugh’s move to take the witness stand like navigating “a field of landmines” given the other crimes and lies he was confronted with under cross-examination.

“I thought it was a colossal mistake in this case for him to take the stand,” he said.

“First off he had to acknowledge lying to investigators about his whereabouts on the night of the murders.

“He also had to acknowledge years upon years of deceit and lies to his clients from whom he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“He looked them in the eyes like he looked jurors in the eyes and lied to them to take their money… he had to look jurors in the eyes and say I lied to so many people so many occasions but this one time you should trust me that I’m telling the truth.”

Mr Levin added: “His testimony was an abomination and he actually helped prosecutors convict him.”

When he took the stand, Murdaugh confessed to lying about his alibi on the night of the murders.

For the past 20 months, he had claimed that he had never gone to the dog kennels with his wife and son that night.

But he was forced to admit he had lied after jurors were shown a damning cellphone video captured by Paul, which placed Murdaugh at the crime scene minutes before the murders.

Despite the “abomination” that was his testimony, Mr Levin said he doubts the verdict would have turned out differently even if he hadn’t taken the stand given that “all evidence pointed to” Murdaugh as the killer.

Dramatic moment Alex Murdaugh confronted over why he lied about night of murders

In fact, Mr Levin said he was surprised it took jurors as long as it did to convict him.

The jury spent less than three hours deliberating before returning a unanimous guilty verdict – a timeframe that has led to speculation from some on social media that the panel didn’t spend enough time looking at the evidence.

“I’m surprised it took three hours. I actually predicted one hour,” said Mr Levin.

“There’s no magic amount of time,” he said, defending how long the jurors took.

“The jurors paid close attention to the trial over the many weeks. They didn’t just have a few hours to consider the evidence – they’ve actually been thinking about it and deliberating and considering it for weeks and weeks.”

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