Body Language Expert Analyzes Key Players From Murdaugh Trial - Exclusive

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Disbarred South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh, of the prominent Murdaugh family, was sentenced to life in prison on two counts of murder for the 2021 shooting deaths of his wife and son, Maggie and Paul Murdaugh, CNN reports. In the courtroom at the time Murdaugh was sentenced and testifying at the Murdaugh trial were Murdaugh's surviving son, Buster Murdaugh, and several other individuals close to the high-profile family, including Maggie Murdaugh's own sister, Marian Proctor, and Murdaugh's brother, John Marvin Murdaugh.

According to the prosecution, Murdaugh murdered his wife and son to cover up his long history of fraud, evidence of which emerged during the Murdaugh trial, as did a number of mysterious deaths related to the Murdaugh family dynasty stretching back decades. The former lawyer's own substance use issues were also uncovered which may have affected his frame of mind when Maggie and Paul Murdaugh's murder took place, according to the defense (via People). 

The body language of each key player in the courtroom during their own testimony and when Murdaugh's sentence was read was notable. Though the behaviors of each  — including Murdaugh himself as he learned he would spend the rest of his life behind bars — spoke volumes, nonverbal communication is a matter of interpretation. In an exclusive conversation with Grunge, body language expert, communication coach, and author of "A.W.E.S.O.M.E.: 7 Keys to Unlock the Speaker Within," Jess Ponce III, examined courtroom footage of several prominent individuals related to the Murdaugh trial, adding a whole new dimension to the case.

The testimonies of John Marvin Murdaugh and Marian Proctor

During the double-murder trial of former South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh, his murdered wife's sister, Marian Proctor, and Alex's brother, John Marvin Murdaugh, took the stand. In an exclusive chat with Grunge, Ponce noted John Marvin Murdaugh's visible emotion suited the tragic circumstance. "His face was red, his breath erratic, his eyes filled with tears, and his voice broken," Ponce said. "He also looked down and was quite expressive with his hands throughout his recounting of what happened."

When John Marvin Murdaugh was not in the midst of storytelling, Ponce noted, "He looked right at the attorneys asking him questions and was far less teary-eyed. He was still emotional but seemed much more measured. We saw different sides of John Marvin." And tellingly, "he showcased more emotion than Alex or Buster," Ponce added. Perhaps one of the most tragic moments in the Murdaugh trial came from Maggie Murdaugh's sister, Marian Proctor (pictured) when she recounted the moment she asked Alex if her sibling had suffered before she died. At that point, "she found it challenging to find the right words," Ponce noticed, and was uncomfortable with the exchange.

Ponce otherwise explained several sincere gestures on Proctor's part. "She touched her chest when she said she was worried for the [Murdaugh] family — and that gesture, the motion to one's heart, indicates sincere feeling. In this case, it was fear." After a long pause, Proctor indicated everyone was worried except Alex Murdaugh. "That long pause spoke volumes — she felt he was hiding something," Ponce said.

Buster Murdaugh remained guarded when the verdict was announced

Among all those present in the courtroom at the time Alex Murdaugh's sentence was read, many eyes were on Murdaugh's only surviving son, Buster Murdaugh (pictured). In Ponce's expert interpretation of Buster Murdaugh's in-court demeanor, it seemed like the heir to the disgraced Murdaugh family had more to say but kept it to himself. "Buster wiped his face, looked away, and then put his fingers on his lips," Ponce told Grunge in exclusive commentary. "He rested his hands on mouth for a beat, which typically — and quite literally — indicates being 'closed mouth.' Overall, he was somber and guarded," Ponce added. 

Ponce also found several clues in Murdaugh's body language once his guilty verdict was read and during his sentencing hearing. According to Ponce, it was as if the former lawyer was unsurprised by what he heard. "He took a deep breath as he rose from his seat. He pursed his lips together in a self-conscious manner, looked down, and swayed ever so slightly as the verdict was read," Ponce noted. 

"Upon hearing 'guilty' his head motioned forward a bit, almost as if to indicate yes. As the guilty verdicts continued his eyes occasionally closed and pursed his lips again — but these movements were very subtle. His only change was upon hearing the voices of the jury affirming his guilt. Overall, his reaction to the verdict was very stoic and unremarkable. It was almost as if he was void of any emotion or reaction," Ponce said.