Murdaugh trial: Defense attorneys make a big ask of the jury | Opinion

Joshua Boucher/

Random thoughts from an off-site observer of the Lowcountry’s trial of the century.

I’m watching from afar the double-murder trial of Alex Murdaugh of Hampton that started Jan. 23 in the Colleton County Courthouse.

Murdaugh, the disgraced former lawyer, is standing trial on charges he murdered his wife Maggie and younger son Paul in 2021.

Attorneys can say what they want to defend him, but please don’t try to convince us that anything – anything – is considered out of bounds for Alex Murdaugh.

They’re painting a grotesque picture of the scene where two people were brutally killed by gunfire at short range on the theory that a jury will never believe a man could do that to his wife and son.

But this is a person who faces charges of stealing some $10 million from bereaved, destitute, or maimed clients, as well as law partners and family.

And he’s in the fourth generation of a family that has controlled law enforcement and so-called justice in this area since 1920, which gets to the crux of the matter. Alex Murdaugh felt, and appears to still feel, he acts with impunity.

We saw it in action on the night in 2019 that his late son crashed a family boat, killing one person and injuring several others. He and his father rushed to the hospital, where they were accused of obstructing justice in their dealings with crash victims. This while a 19-year-old girl was missing.

He may very well be not guilty on the murder charges, but it won’t be based on any personal ethical standards.

Empty seats

For a trial of the century, there sure are a lot of empty seats in the Walterboro courthouse.

I guess it depends on what century is in play.

In the old days, a trial would be the greatest drama in town. That’s how we got our early barbecue purveyors. They set up shop on the town square when court was in session because there was always a big crowd.

Today’s trial is updated online constantly with news and commentary. It is being streamed online by a number of outlets, including this newspaper. It’s being shown nationally by Court TV, and a television version without ads and talking heads is being aired on Fox Carolina.

So even with all the elbow room in the courthouse, it has been suggested online that every lawyer in the state is glued to the live action.

Coat of arms

Alex Murdaugh arrives on the scene with a sports coat wrapped over his apparently cuffed hands as he gets out of his cage-like van from a county jail in Columbia. But there is no orange jumpsuit or leg irons. And when he gets into the courthouse, he’s wearing the sports coat and there are no hand cuffs.

Pool of blood

No one, even the high-priced mega-lawyers, is getting this right:

It’s lying, not laying.

No one is laying in a pool of blood. They are lying in a pool of blood.

As it turns out, a chicken is playing a bit part (get it?) in this drama. It made a cameo appearance near the crime scene -- in the mouth of a passing dog.

That chicken, in better days, may have been able to lay eggs there. But no one else lays anything there.

David Lauderdale may be reached at