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Alex Murdaugh's fate was decided after the prosecution wanted to go back on their plea deal after finding discrepancies in his polygraph test.
Cover Image Source: YouTube/ CNN
Cover Image Source: YouTube/ CNN

Alex Murdaugh, the disgraced former lawyer, was sentenced to 40 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to 22 federal financial crimes charges. The ruling from the federal South Carolina judge came after a recent controversy over a failed polygraph test. U.S. District Judge Richard M. Gergel waived the mandatory restitution of $9 million due to the defendant's inability to pay the same. Murdaugh will only be required to pay $2,000, reported Fox News. The trial involved the embezzlement of millions by Murdaugh. 

Representative Image Source: Pexels |  David McBee
Representative Image Source: Pexels | David McBee

Murdaugh is currently serving 27 years for nearly two dozen fraud and money laundering cases, reported CNN. In addition, he is also serving two consecutive life sentences for the murder of his wife and son for which he pleaded guilty, a year earlier. State prosecutors argued that the guilty plea for the murder cases was filed by Murdaugh to distract the public and the court from his dubious financial schemes. He was accused of defrauding his personal injury clients and law firm of millions of dollars in settlement funds and then using the acquired money for personal gains. The plea deal involved the use of a polygraph test, where the examiner would be appointed by the governor.


As per the court filing the objective behind the test was to prosecute any coconspirators and to recover Murdaugh’s “ill-gotten gains” for his victims. The team was even more concerned regarding the results as $6 million embezzled by Murdaugh remained unaccounted for in the investigations. They still believe that there are details regarding the conspiracy that have not come out in the open. Therefore, the plea deal required Murdaugh to be  “fully truthful and forthright” with law enforcement. In exchange for honesty, he was promised a federal sentence that would be served concurrently with any state sentence imposed on him. After seeing the results of the polygraph test the prosecutors believe that Murdaugh has not been completely truthful regarding the case and are now demanding that the deal be withdrawn. If this passes through Murdaugh will be unable to take back the guilty plea and the Attorney's office will be free to seek the maximum sentence for his charges.


The test was conducted in October 2023 and an FBI polygraph examiner was hired. It occurred in two parts. Details like what questions were asked and what responses were provided remain hidden from the public. According to the government filing the questioning was “on issues related to hidden assets and the involvement of another attorney in Murdaugh’s criminal conduct.” Murdaugh's attorneys are not throwing the towel in and are arguing that the polygraph test was not conducted fairly. In their filing, they also opposed the suggestion to hide the polygraph test from the public. “To allow the Government to publicly accuse Murdaugh of breaching his plea agreement while also allowing the Government to hide all purported evidence supporting that accusation from the public would violate the public’s right to the truth,” their response says. Murdaugh through his attorneys claims that the polygraph examiner was engaging in "odd conduct" while administering the test.


The defense team also alleged that with this test the government is not acting in "good faith." The questions did not follow the standard set by Global Polygraph Network “It appears that the polygrapher designed the relevant question in such a way to ensure that Murdaugh would fail the exam,” the attorneys claim in the document. They have raised a lot of doubt regarding the examiner's intentions. The fact that he came in believing that Murdaugh did not murder his wife and son and confided to their client that he had come back from performing a polygraph examination related to the murder of Natalee Holloway, made the results biased in the Defense's opinion. 


Prosecutors do not want to reveal the details of the Polygraph test or interviews with Murdaugh to the public. Their argument is that they are related to an ongoing grand jury investigation and involve people who with their influence might hamper potential evidence. Revealing the evidence will ruin the integrity of the investigation. The Defense has not been satisfied with this argument and has asked the court to consider less extreme methods like redaction of the polygraph and FBI interviews. Moreover, Murdaugh's attorney feels that the public has the right to the truth. “But most importantly, the Government accuses Murdaugh of breaching his plea agreement and Murdaugh denies the allegation,” their filing says. “The public has a right to know the truth of the matter through judicial proceedings that are open and transparent, not closed and sealed.”


The Defence has also brought to attention the Department of Justice's policies which do not consider polygraph test results to be the ultimate determinant of whether an individual is speaking the truth. Therefore, they argue that just based on that test their client cannot be called a liar.  The team filed a sentencing memorandum requesting to deny or delay the ruling to hold Murdaugh in breach of his plea agreement until they receive the polygraph test themselves to analyze it in detail. US District Court Judge Richard M. Gergel has instructed federal prosecutors to submit redacted versions of witness interview summaries and an expert report related to the polygraph exam by the end of 5th April.


Murdaugh while entering the guilty plea back in September was emotional and cried before the judge. He claimed that he had taken this step not only for the sake of his conscience but also for his surviving son. The former attorney wanted his son to see him take responsibility for his actions that have hurt so many people, according to three attorneys who were present during the proceedings. He also hoped that his admission would aid the hurt individuals in their journey of healing.

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