How the Murdaugh trial gripped America

How the Murdaugh trial gripped America

<span>Photo: Reuters</span>” src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQyMw–/″ data-src =”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQyMw–/″/></div>
<p><figcaption class=Photo: Reuters

The courtroom was silent as Judge Clifton Newman confronted Alex Murdoff with the ghosts of his dead wife and son. Lawyers from South Carolina had just been convicted of a brutal murder in a trial that gripped America.

Related: Violence, corruption, power: key moments in the Alex Murdoff trial

Murduff, the calmly spoken judge suggested, would be visited by their presence as he tried to sleep. Moordoff, who continues to protest his innocence, nevertheless accepts the judge’s order.

“All day and every night,” Murdoff said just before Newman sentenced him to life murderApparently in a needless attempt to divert attention from a network of financial fraud and lies that was about to be uncovered but came to define his wealthy lifestyle.

It was a fittingly dramatic ending to a drama that has captured the attention of a country with no shortage of crime stories. But the story Marduff murder struck a particular chord with the US public: dripping with violence, fraud, political power, corruption and mystery. And all served with a veneer of deep southern gothic straight from the rural Lowcountry of South Carolina.

This hardscrabble stretch of America is a place, as is often said of the South, where the terrible legacies of the past don’t so much linger, but – like Mordoff’s haunts – visit people every night. The Murduff name looms large in the town of Hampton and surrounding counties where the family held legal and political power for many generations.

A sign welcomes people to Hampton, South Carolina. Photo: Jeffrey Collins/AP

Notably, the trial itself was held in Walterboro, 30 miles from Hampton and outside the county line of Murdough’s influence.

Jurors were clear about Murdoff’s guilt in the murders of Maggie, 52, and Paul, 22. The panel members revealed that while they took three hours to deliver the verdict, they actually got there just 45 minutes later.

But the exact details of what Murdoff did to people on the streets of Hampton still remain somewhat murky in a case that seemed almost certain to bring a guilty verdict despite being based mostly on circumstantial evidence.

Some jurors suspected that Murdoch pulled the trigger on his wife and son but were less certain that he did not order their executions. Others spoke of other deaths in Mordoff’s orbit, including his housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield in 2018, and Stephen Smith in 2015.

Some predicted that Murdaugh would still find a way. “I don’t think he will do his time,” said one resident. “He’ll either take his own life or he’ll piss someone off to take his.”

Alex Murdoff moved to a bond hearing on September 16, 2021.

Alex Murdoff moved to a bond hearing on September 16, 2021. Photo: Mike Smith/AP

Hampton has been visited by journalists and documentary makers for nearly two years. Now most residents still willing to speak, did so on condition of anonymity. Almost everyone sees a boat accident that kills local girl Mallory Beach, and attempts to shift the blame from Murdough’s son Paul, who was piloting the craft, as the beginning of the undoing.

Paul was known around town as a heavy drinker who would strip to his underwear when drunk and was prodded by his mother and disciplined by his father. They theorized that Paul was his father’s undoing, as he could not contain the legal ramifications of his son’s behavior once Beach’s family sued in a move that would likely expose Moordoff’s fraudulent business practices as a powerful local attorney.

But blame-shifting has been a companion of the entire Alex Murdoff saga. The family was often well liked – or at least respected or feared – in the city. He was positively adored by his father Randolph and grandfather Buster. The family law firm sponsored the Watermelon Festival in June; won awards in personal injury litigation; Controls the levers of power.

Before Murdoff’s trial began, a portrait of Buster was removed from the courtroom — a sign that respect for the family and its history in the region was over.

“You are either with them or against them. It doesn’t work if you don’t live with them,” said another resident. It claims to be a cousin or cousin, unless the circumstances demand otherwise, such as when Alex Murduff leans on passengers on Paul Murdoff’s boat to avoid being identified as the driver in a fatal boating accident.

This feudalism lasted until it became impossible, one man pointed out on Main Street in the Hamptons last week. He said, this murder has shocked everyone. “Everyone knew they were crooked – just not how crooked. They had law enforcement with them, they stole from everybody and everybody knew it.”

Two months after killing his wife and son, Murdoff approached Edward Curtis Smith, a former family man, to stage his murders on a country road. A suicide-for-hire plot goes awry when Murdoff survives and with it his surviving son, Buster, loses his chance to win a $10 million settlement for Murdoff.

“I think Alex was involved with himself,” said one resident. “He stole so much from his own law partners, and so much from those with whom he did business, that he is trying to straighten himself out. Paul got right in the middle of it, and Paul kept doing bad things, right behind one, and Maggie was covering for him.”

Justin Bamberg, a lawyer and representative to the South Carolina state legislature, said outside court after the guilty verdicts that the power and influence the Murdoffs once had in the legal system had already dissipated — the charges against Murdoff and the convictions vindicated.

“Obviously it didn’t affect much, and Alex tried hard,” Bamberg said.

He compared Murdaugh’s controlled expression as the verdict was read and his sometimes emotional testimony on the witness stand. “Emotion served him in his performance before the jury but once they reached the verdict there was no need for it,” he said.


Friday marked the end of an era for the local community. The local paper, Bluffton Today, surveyed in a front-page article how three generations of men named Randolph Murdoff wielded legal and political power in the five-county 14th Judicial Circuit until “a scandalous descent tarnished their reputation and led to a downfall. Centuries-old dynasty”.

Gate near Alex Murdoff's home in South Carolina.

Gate near Alex Murdoff’s home in South Carolina. Photo: Jeffrey Collins/AP

But the lingering aspects of Murduff power were still evident. Even as he was sentenced to life behind bars, Newman offered an apparent excuse for his killing spree — his widely cited addiction to opioids.

“It might not be you, it might be when you take 50, 60, 70 opioid pills that you become a monster,” Newman said. “I’ve seen it before.”

Standing outside Elephant Ears, a roadside deep-fried dough stop in the Hamptons, Tammy Donoghue voiced what many have expressed. The full power and influence of the Murdaugh clan may end. “I don’t think people will believe them,” he said.

“And they’re still pretty strong.”

#Murdaugh #trial #gripped #America

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button