Why You Should Pay Attention to Alex Murdaugh
It took me a long time to put my thoughts down in one place. As an attorney, albeit not a criminal-lawyer, I often get asked for my perspective on sensational courtroom drama. As someone who went into law school with the intention of becoming a prosecutor, I genuinely LOVE discussing criminal matters with anyone and everyone. Although not my career path, I still have an extreme interest in all things true crime. I, like several of us over at New Orleans Mom, am a true crime junkie. Ask any past roommate of mine and they will attest to my predilection for watching live-streamed criminal trials. That interest has equated to me consuming as much true crime podcasts I can make time for which ultimately led me to The Murdaugh Murders Podcast in June of 2021. I believe we can all learn something from Alex Murdaugh. Particularly, that evil doesn’t look like what you think it does. That men who come from “good families” are capable of atrocities. And lastly, that unchecked power corrupts but will always reveal itself in the end.
Unless you have been living under a rock, you have heard of Alex Murdaugh
(or as he insists, “Aleck Murdock” ::insert massive eyeroll::) – the disgraced and disbarred South Carolina attorney and assistant solicitor (i.e., district attorney) that reigns from the low country. For nearly a century, his family has held the office of Solicitor General and for most of that time, the most prominent plaintiff’s firm in the area. In short, his family handled criminal prosecutions and then sent those people to the Murdaugh Law Firm for the related civil trials. Are you beginning to see the conflict here? That scenario is not only highly unusual, but fraught with potential conflicts of interest.
Things were coasting along smoothly for the Murdaugh family when Alex’s youngest son, Paul, drove a boat, whilst drunk, and killed his friend and injured the other passengers. This is commonly referred to in trial as “the boat case.” This is what changed everything for the Murdaugh family. Paul was criminally charged, and along with the rest of his immediate family, was ultimately named in the civil litigation that followed. Mark Tinsley, aka “The Tiger,” was going to see that those responsible compensated the victims for their insurmountable loss regardless of their attempts to cover up details of the case and shift blame to another passenger. Side note – go watch this testimony and tell me he didn’t live up to Judge Newman’s description.
Alex, trying to avoid accountability, claimed he was broke, which no one believed. The lawyers involved knew firsthand of the multi-million dollar settlements Alex was counsel for. Like it or not, Alex was going to have to produce an accounting of his financial information. Doing so would reveal the financial crimes he had been covering for years. In fact, he had stolen at least $10 million over the years from clients including children, the family of his children’s nanny and housekeeper, a blind quadriplegic and many others. Alex was on the precipice of financial ruin, family shame, and the demise of his legal career and dynasty when Paul and Maggie (Alex’s wife) were brutally murdered on the family’s 1700 acre hunting estate (one of several properties they owned). There is so much more to the story that was uncovered after the murders until Alex was convicted last week of murdering Paul and Maggie. And I am confident we will learn more in the coming years, though doubtful we will ever know the full truth.
I gave a brief synopsis because frankly I could fill a novel with the saga.
If it appears that I am minimizing any of Alex’s despicable behavior, that is the farthest from my intention. He is deplorable and I would imagine could be diagnosed with narcissism and psychopathy. If you want to deep dive into the Murdaugh family, you absolutely must start with MMP. Mandy Matney, and later, Liz Farrell do a phenomenal job of hitting every detail of what only a Hollywood screenwriter could dream. Yes, they go into the weeds, but that is necessary for this level of corruption. A man like Alex Murdaugh isn’t able to victimize as many as he has without the cooperation and support of other people in power. What originally sounded in conspiracy has revealed itself to be a frightening reality, that likely occurs in other places.
If you want a more superficial view, the HBO and Netflix series are well done. And if you want more, I highly recommend watching the trial itself (available on YouTube). You will get to see Big Creighton Energy firsthand and observe the thoroughness, thoughtfulness and grace that is Judge Newman. The man exemplifies what our justice system should be. The fact that Judge Newman lost and buried his son just before the start of the trial was not lost on me. There are also some characters including State Senator and Alex’s defense attorney Dick Harpootlian. The man is a joke and should consider retiring. He is highly connected politically and gets away with what most of us would never dream of. If it weren’t for the conviction, I don’t think I would be able to laugh at the courtroom spectacle and theatrics like I can now. Let us not forget Dr. Kinsey and “the cone” and the brilliant Dr. Riemer who epitomized a strong female professional. And the highlight was when Alex took the stand. Lawyering 101 tells you that is never a good idea unless we are talking about self defense. But he went on. And on and on and on. He cannot help himself. He truly believed he could convince this jury of his version like he had frauded so many before them. He tried to justify lying about his alibi by proclaiming “oh what a tangled web we weave.” I watched every minute of the trial. It was better than any episode of Law & Order (and I say that as a L&O stan). When I was driving, walking, doing housework, etc., I streamed what I couldn’t watch in real time. Funny story: on my 4 hour drive home from riding in Cleopatra, I watched Blanca’s testimony among others.
Now that the trial is over, I am going through withdrawals.
I am re-listening to MMP and constantly searching for new news. There will be plenty more coming as Alex’s wake of crimes surface. It would be a bucket list check for me to serve on a jury for a criminal trial. I am not hopeful I will ever be lucky enough to serve my civic duty. Until then, streaming trials will have to suffice. I know our criminal justice system needs a lot of work and it is far from perfect. But I attest it is the best system in the world. The fact that the talking heads on main stream media were predicting such a different outcome reinforces the necessity of juries. If you didn’t know about Alex Murdaugh before now, I encourage you to dip your toe into his story. Perhaps you could be mover and shaker that the Mandy Matney and Liz Farrell have been. Learning about the crimes of Alex Murdaugh may provide entertainment, but it could inspire you to take action. At the least, I hope it inspires you to take jury duty seriously.
The Murdaugh trial serves as a reminder on what money combined with unchecked power can lead to.