Alex Murdaugh is the perfect villain for the Trump era. He’s a greedy, entitled, and lying motherfucker. Now he’s a convicted murderer.
I usually don’t follow the latest sensational murder trial but, as I mentioned last weekend, my friend Julie has been mainlining the Murdaugh Mishigas. Her enthusiasm has swept me away on a tidal wave of true crime buffery or some such shit.
I didn’t watch all the trial but viewed enough to form many opinions; some of which turned out to be wrong.
I thought that the defendant’s testimony would hang the jury. Murdaugh oozed synthetic sincerity, which I wrongly believed would convince at least one juror to make like Henry Fonda in 12 Angry Men:
Murdaugh’s central defense was: I’m a thief and a liar but I’m not a murderer. He’s certainly a weirdo. Who the hell calls their son Paw-Paw? In the Gret Stet of Louisiana, that’s what they call a grandfather. Every time he said that I wanted to clock him. Grandfather clock, get it?
I’ve tried to do an Alex Murdaugh impression but it always sounds like Billy Bob Thornton in Sling Blade.
I was hyper-critical of the endless detail in the prosecution’s closing argument and rebuttal. Lead prosecutor Creighton Waters has all the charisma of a corporate accountant. I flat-out disliked the man and called him Murky Waters. I even thought the substitution of Matlock-like lawyer John Meadors was a sign that the prosecution was in trouble. Wrong.
Other city slickers mocked Meadors’ down home style. I disagree: juries like attorneys who speak in the local vernacular. Put Meadors in Manhattan and he’d bomb. He was the perfect closer for the prosecution in Colleton County, South Carolina.
As a city slicker, I had a hard time putting myself in the jurors’ heads. When I covered the Derek Chauvin trial, I could both identify and empathize with the Minneapolis jurors. Any empathy I had with the Murdaugh jury was strictly ersatz. Ersatz Empathy will be the name of my next band. I won’t have one but at least it will have a cool name.
I assumed that the power and influence of the Murdaugh clan would intimidate the jury and lead to a stalemate. Wrong. The jury was out for less time than Murky Waters’ closing argument. It may have been murky but it worked.
The most effective phrase thrown at the defendant was family annihilator. I didn’t know that was a thing, but it is. It captured the cold-blooded calculation of the killer’s actions, which spoke louder than his folksy words on the witness stand.
As I mentioned at the top of the post, I’m not a murder trial watcher but I enjoyed Court TV’s coverage, especially lead anchor Vinnie Politan. He’s a former prosecutor from New Jersey, which makes him as much of a city slicker as I am. His take on the trial was insightful, incisive, and other I words.
I caught the end of the sentencing. Murdaugh maintained his innocence and persisted in calling his dead son Paw-Paw. The excellent trial judge, Clifton Newman, lectured Murdaugh before throwing the book at him. The defendant will have a lot of time to read said thrown book. He was given two life sentences.
I was pleased by the verdict. It proved that the wealthy and powerful don’t always get away with murder. The system worked in this case.
In addition to rotting in the slammer, Murdaugh faces more legal action from those he has wronged. If there’s any hidden money, I hope the plaintiffs in the civil cases will recover it.
Long ago and far away from the Low Country, Pete Townshend posed a question that Alex Murdaugh’s former law partners and clients would answer in the affirmative: Did You Steal My Money?
The last word goes to The Who: