I haven’t really been keeping up with Alex Murdaugh’s murder trial, which has been going on for the past six weeks. I don’t know why I haven’t been following it. I spent three years in South Carolina, and he’s a descendent of a legal dynasty in the Low Country. Today’s featured photo is a screen grab from the moment when Murdaugh heard the verdict. Below is a video I listened to a few days ago, about Murdaugh’s life in jail. He’s in for more of the same for the rest of his life.
I did happen to catch some of Murdaugh’s attorney’s closing statements yesterday. I was really grateful not to be on the jury, because the lawyer just kept yammering on about reasonable doubt. Those poor folks had to take six weeks out of their lives to attend Alex Murdaugh’s trial. As I was listening to a few minutes of this man’s closing speech, I suddenly felt like I used to feel as a kid when I was forced to go to church.
I mean, it was good that the lawyer thanked the jury for their service. He mentioned that they’d had to leave their homes, their families, their jobs, and some even missed out on vacations for the duration of the murder trial. You’d think he’d have a little more respect for the jurors’ time. Yes, he needed to impress upon them the importance of being absolutely sure that the man was guilty before they cast a guilty vote. But I think most of those people are smart enough to hear him say that without endless pontificating.
I’m not surprised that Mr. Murdaugh was convicted of murdering his wife and son. He faces sentencing today. That means at least thirty years in prison, or the rest of his life. Given that he’s 54 years old, I’d say he won’t be getting out of prison regardless of what the sentence is. That’s not enough for some people. I read that Mr. Murdaugh will not be facing the death penalty, and that really pisses off some folks. I read some rather appalling comments about how Murdaugh won’t get death because he’s a rich, white man. That might be true, but I don’t really think racism is a reason to promote capital punishment.
I wouldn’t cheer for anyone to get a death sentence, no matter who they are, or what their race is. I think capital punishment should be reserved for truly guilty people who are extremely dangerous to other human beings and would definitely kill again if they were ever free. When I think of people who should be put to death, I think of folks like Timothy McVeigh, who blew up a building and likely wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. Or John Allen Muhammad, the Beltway Sniper, who coerced a 17 year old kid to help him murder random people across multiple states. I’m thinking of people who are truly hateful monsters who kill indiscriminately.
The vast majority of murderers don’t randomly kill people simply for sport. There’s usually some connection to the victim. It’s not like they just go out and kill someone because they feel like it. They have a more specific “reason” to kill. I think people who get off on killing are much more dangerous than those who feel like they somehow had to do it. I’m not saying those who somehow felt like they had to commit murder are better or more moral… just that they’re probably less dangerous. I think most executions should be done purely for public safety. They should be reserved for the most callous, irredeemable, monstrous criminals.
Not long ago, I read and reviewed a book about a murder case in my home state of Virginia. It involved two teenagers who decided they wanted to know what it was like to kill someone. They had a list of people who were candidates for killing. If someone crossed them, even if the potential victim was unaware that they did so, they were at risk of being murdered. But if the victim made amends, somehow, before the deed was done, they’d be crossed off the list. That kind of random thinking, to me, makes someone more dangerous and worthier of capital punishment. Crazily enough, the subjects of that book have both been paroled.
I really don’t like the death penalty, though. Even for truly dangerous people, I get skeeved out by the idea of people deliberately executing other people. I was very happy when Virginia outlawed capital punishment two years ago, particularly since Virginia had some pretty wacko rules regarding evidence. In another book I recently read, I learned about how if evidence wasn’t presented in a very short timeframe, it couldn’t be considered, even if the evidence might exonerate someone. That, to me, is sheer craziness. If there is the slightest chance a person might be innocent, he or she should not be a candidate for execution. That’s my opinion, anyway.
The longer I live outside of the United States, the more weirded out I get by the bizarre opinions of some of my compatriots. Some of them are absolutely gleeful when a person gets sentenced to death, or sent away to rot in prison for the rest of their lives. Personally, I find the idea of lifetime imprisonment or execution sad, even if the person really deserves the punishment. I don’t like to see lives wasted. Likewise, some people get angry when a person doesn’t get the death penalty. It never occurs to them how easy it is to get arrested in the United States, nor do they seem to care that sometimes innocent people end up on death row. Once someone is executed, they can’t be brought back to life.
Of course, a lot of these folks also conflate the death penalty with abortion. They are all for executing already born people who have a concept of life and death, and they are all for forcing women to be pregnant. Both ideas strike me as brutal and barbaric. But then, to me there’s a big difference between someone who has already been born and someone who is still in utero.
Those are just my opinions. After I saw the death house at the Virginia State Penitentiary, my mind was forever changed about capital punishment. I used to be all for it, because I was so divorced from the people who might face it. Then I actually saw Virginia’s electric chair, and realized that a lot of people died in that chair. Most of them had friends and family who once cared about them in some way. Executions don’t just punish offenders. They also punish people who love the offenders.
I’ll admit, though, that I likely have this level of compassion because I haven’t been victimized by a violent criminal. Maybe being a victim would make me feel differently about this subject. It’s not like I haven’t changed my mind before… and I will admit that reading some stories about violent crimes make me angry enough to wish death on the perpetrators. I remember reading a horrifying story a few years ago about a lovely elderly North Carolina couple who were robbed, tied up, and left to die when the perpetrators set their house on fire. The husband escaped, but the wife succumbed in the fire. I was pretty enraged by that story. I don’t think I would shed any tears if the men who did that were executed… but I also don’t think I would vote for them to get the death penalty… if that makes any sense.
I’m grateful to live in a country that, for the most part, is pretty safe and clean. Violent crime is fairly rare in Germany, at least when compared to my homeland. And there’s no death penalty here, so violent criminals don’t get a platform. I’m sure some of my relatives would say I’ve gone “soft” and liberal on them… But, to me, capital punishment is just another way of promoting loss.
Anyway, I do think it would be appropriate for Mr. Murdaugh to spend the rest of his days in confinement. I don’t think he has a hope in hell of ever being free again, and I think that’s a fitting punishment for him. I don’t need to see him strapped to a gurney and given an overdose of drugs. I can understand, though, that a lot of people will disagree with me. We’ll see what happens today, when he gets sentenced.