The Scariest Alex Murdaugh Trial Take-Away: He Almost Got Away With It
He Made Only One Serious Mistake
What remains to say about the extraordinary six-week trial of South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh?
As most everyone knows, the jury took just under three hours to convict him of murdering his wife, Maggie and son, Paul.
Rarely has a murder trial attracted so much coverage, but, as Judge Clifton Newman said in a remarkable public coda before sentencing Murdaugh to two consecutive life prison terms, rarely has so much potential collateral been at stake.
Judge Newman’s opening:
“This has been perhaps one of the most troubling cases not just for me as a judge, for the state, for the defense team, but for all of the citizens in this community, all the citizens in this state, as we have seen based on the media coverage throughout the nation.
You have a wife who has been killed, murdered. A son savagely murdered. A lawyer, a person from the respected family who has controlled justice in this community for over a century, a person whose grandfather’s portrait hang at the back of the courthouse that I had to have ordered removed in order to ensure that a fair trial was had by both the state and the defense…”
There you have it in a nutshell.
Had Alex Murdaugh not been found guilty, given his admission on the stand that he’d lied (he told law enforcement he was not at the murder scene in the right time frame, when in fact, a Snapchat video taken by his late son, Paul, showed, he clearly was) - what would that have said to the rest of the country about the wheels of justice in South Carolina? That they are completely, unabashedly bent?
There was palpable relief among my local sources that the jury had felt sufficiently unencumbered to get so fast to a unanimous decision, not just because everyone I spoke to believed Murdaugh was guilty following all the lies he admitted to on the stand, but because it restored people’s faith in the State’s judicial system, which has deservedly taken a beating because of this saga.
But not all the loose ends are tied up with the conviction.
Sadly, we still don’t know exactly what happened on the night of June 7th 2021 when Maggie and Paul Murdaugh met their grisly ends. (Is there a mother alive not in anguish about the image, conjured by prosecutor Creighton Waters, of Maggie running to her murdered son, meeting an onslaught of bullets on the way: from the boy’s father?)
And, we still don’t know the real story behind the roadside botched attempted suicide/hit job the following September. We don’t know what Alex Murdaugh allegedly spent around $8 million of illicit funds on. We don’t know if, on the evening of June 7th 2020, Alex Murdaugh got into a fight with his son, or if, as prosecutor Creighton Waters suggested, he’d planned the double homicide meticulously and evilly.
Based on testimony, I’d bet on the latter.
What has stayed with me in the aftermath of the trial that I’m not sure I’ve read elsewhere, is the awful fact, that despite the operatic saga of the unraveling of his deceitful, sociopathic existence, the astonishing reality is that Alex Murdaugh very nearly got away with the murder of his wife and son.
We learned these past six weeks from courtroom testimony how someone who knew police procedure inside out - he had a badge and lights - knew enough about forensics, technology and law enforcement to almost beat the system.
It’s a terrible thing to have to write, but if one was to try to commit murder and get away with it, these past weeks we learned exactly what to do:
1. Be away from your phone when committing the crime.
Make it look as if there are two criminals, not one.
Then change your clothes, dispose of them and of the weapons,
Move away from murder scene. Recover your phone in a seemingly innocuous place..
Text, make calls, drive. Act normally.
Dispose of any cell phones/tech that could be problematic
Establish an alibi.
Return to the scene of the crime and call law enforcement.
Come up with a plausible motive for someone else/elses to have committed murder.
Murdaugh may not have completed all ten steps perfectly, but the one critical mistake was not completing rule 6: not throwing away Paul’s phone. Had that vanished into a nearby estuary of which there are many, there would have been no Snapchat video placing Alex where, he told law enforcement, he wasn’t.
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