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Jurors will begin deliberating the fate of prominent S.C attorney Alex Murdaugh

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Jurors in the South Carolina murder trial of former attorney Alex Murdaugh are expected to start deliberations later today.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The prosecutors spent almost three hours presenting their closing arguments on Wednesday. They are trying to convince jurors that this once-prominent attorney murdered his wife and son in the summer of 2021.

FADEL: South Carolina Public Radio's Victoria Hansen has been inside the courtroom for this nearly six-week-long trial, and she joins us live from Walterboro.

VICTORIA HANSEN, BYLINE: Good morning. How are you?

FADEL: Good morning. Quite the case you're covering. People are fascinated. It's the subject of a Netflix docuseries. Could you break down what Murdaugh is accused of and what you are here - what you've been hearing in court?

HANSEN: Yeah, sure. I mean, where do I begin? It is a long and complicated case. As the lead prosecutor Creighton Waters explained early on, you know, Murdaugh is not only charged with murdering his loved ones but has yet to be tried on charges he embezzled millions from his family's law firm and tried to stage his own death so his surviving son could collect life insurance money. What's more, Murdaugh's slain son had recently been charged in a deadly boating accident in which Murdaugh was being sued civilly. Now, prosecutor Waters had to spell this all out to prove motive; that is, Murdaugh was a desperate man when he killed his loved ones to try to create a distraction and get sympathy.

FADEL: So how does the prosecution say Murdaugh murdered his wife and son?

HANSEN: Well, Waters says Murdaugh lured Maggie and Paul to the family's rural hunting property where weapons were readily available. He says Paul was shot first with a shotgun near the dog kennels, and he didn't see it coming.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CREIGHTON WATERS: Same with Maggie because Maggie sees what happens, and she comes running over there, running to her baby. Probably the last thing on her mind, thinking that it was him who had done this.

HANSEN: Now, Waters says Maggie was then shot multiple times with an assault-style rifle, which at the time the family owned three. Two are now missing. But the key moment came when the prosecution played a video recovered from Paul's phone just last year. It reveals Paul, Maggie and Murdaugh's voice just minutes before they were killed. The video shattered Murdaugh's alibi. He had long said he was never at the crime scene.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WATERS: Why in the world would an innocent, reasonable father and husband lie about that and lie about it so early if he didn't know that was there?

HANSEN: Murdaugh later took the witness stand, admitting he was there briefly but said he quickly got out of there. Waters pointed to that lie and testimony from dozens of colleagues and clients who say Murdaugh also lied to them to steal millions, including the family of his late housekeeper.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WATERS: And he fooled Maggie and Paul, too. And they paid for it with their lives. Don't let him fool you, too.

FADEL: Wow. A lot to digest there. So that's the prosecution side. What is the defense expected to say as it presents closing arguments today?

HANSEN: The defense says it will take just about two hours. It's really pointing to time in this case to argue the motive is what they call ludicrous. The family had a loving relationship. There are no murder weapons that have been found, bloody clothing or fingerprints. And Murdaugh could not have possibly done this alone. But the prosecution has pointed out repeatedly Murdaugh is a skilled attorney and a part-time solicitor from a long line of solicitors who knows how to hide evidence.

FADEL: That's South Carolina Public Radio's Victoria Hansen.

Thank you so much.

HANSEN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF CORRE'S "AEON") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Victoria Hansen is our Lowcountry connection covering the Charleston community, a city she knows well. She grew up in newspaper newsrooms and has worked as a broadcast journalist for more than 20 years. Her first reporting job brought her to Charleston where she covered local and national stories like the Susan Smith murder trial and the arrival of the Citadel’s first female cadet.