I’ve been looking for a good pun, using ‘Murder’ and ‘Murdaugh’ since they synch so beautifully, but this is the best I could come up with. “They” refers to the lawyers. All of them, both sides, but especially the defense. I’m thinking “Murdaughing a Case” could become an expression describing a lawyer really screwing up in court. Which is what I saw here.
Did you follow the Alex Murdaugh trial?
I did. Of course. I can’t help it. I mean, it’s what I do.
I managed to watch most of the trial, and found the “legal work” (not) going on in the courtroom to be below sub-par. Waaaay below. Both sides never seemed to know where anything was, constantly shuffling through papers, the rustling the only sound in the room, disjointed poorly prepared cross exams, slow pacing, no drama, no theater, no rhythm. Lots of uh’s and duh’s frankly. Boring, in other words. It was so bad I figured it could not possibly get worse.
So, imagine my amazement when, after reading about it and recording it and watching it every night after work like Netflix, and watching the actual Netflix doc to boot, during Closing Argument, out of the absolute blue, Alex’ lawyer called the murder victim, i.e. Alex’ dead son, Paul (aka Pau-Pau, don’t ask…), he called him…….his “friend”? WHAT?!?
It gets worse. Paul was his CLIENT????? At the time of the crime??? Seriously?
RU KIDDING ME?
It astounds me. This is just plain wrong. Why?
The defense attorney who represented the accused murderer (Alex Murdaugh) in a murder trial was representing the guy who was the victim of that murder (Alex’son, Paul) at the time of the murder, and was now knee deep in Dad’s trial, where a big part of the State’s entire theory of the case [with respect to motive] is that victim son was killed because of the exact same case for which the defense attorney was representing the victim at the time of his murder. That prior case was all about Paul killing someone with his boat while he was wasted. As a result of that boating homicide, they were all being sued for a gazillion dollars. Now, in the new murder case, the State was claiming Dad killed his son because of the boating homicide lawsuit, claiming for some stupid reason that dad killed son to in order to gain some sympathy from somebody because that case (not to mention a ton of embezzling at his law firm in his free time, when he was not busy running around killing people) meant he needed some love and pity from somebody, not really sure whom. Someone, somewhere, might feel sorry for him and somehow that meant he simply had to kill his wife and kid.
Sorry if that sounds completely convoluted and confusing. And totally stupid. It’s because it is. And it’s because it ain’t my theory. It was the prosecutors’ theory for motive in this case. Which is why I say both sides sucked. It’s absurd and totally unnecessary. Maybe dad was just pissed off and shot them. Duh. I see that on a daily basis in my practice. It’s called Domestic Violence. Double duh. Motives are generally totally irrelevant to be honest. I would know.
Of course, it might be a “crazy like a fox” strategy. They might be more dirty than stupid. It might look silly, but it sure opens the door to allow the prosecution to bring in all of those irrelevant (but highly prejudicial) embezzlement and theft crimes into evidence in the Murder trial pursuant to Evidence Rule 404. But that is another blog post…..
Back to the “My friend Paul” situation. Back in the Courtroom, during closing, while the double duty lawyer fought back tears of grief for the victim of his client who killed him, informing us for first time about this, uh,……friend?
What would you call it?
You think this might meet the definition of a Conflict?? A lawyer representing both a murder victim, who was his active client at time of the murder, and then representing the accused murderer at trial?
I sure do.
I also think it’s grounds for Reversal on Appeal due to Ineffective Assistance of Counsel (IAC). How is it not a conflict to be arguing in support of a guy who allegedly killed another one of your clients? I mean, if a spouse calls us about a divorce and we already represent the other spouse, we turn and run the opposite direction as fast as we can.
Even if divorce clients are only disagreeing about who gets their fancy toaster, it’s not allowed to represent two people who are on opposite sides in a dispute. I kinda think Murder is the ultimate dispute.
Thing is, even if there is some way the first client could sign off on a waiver of the conflict in this situation, which can sometimes allow a lawyer to represent both sides even if there is a conflict, here there is no possible way that could be done. The client who needs to sign off on the waiver is dead. So, it’s a tad difficult to consult with his lawyer and approve it, doncha’ think?
What boggles my mind is, after suffering through endless hours of moronic second rate “lawyers” on TV, and, even worse, “journalists”, who think they are lawyers, I know none of them caught this issue. That’s because none of them said ONE WORD about this. I found out during Closing Argument for the first time that the guy arguing to save Alex Murdaugh was the lawyer for the guy he killed. It’s incomprehensible to me both that the Court allowed this, but also that none of the so-called “experts” seemed to even notice it.
Speaking of bad lawyering, it’s hard to know which side was worse in this trial. I have never (as in never ever) seen so much disorganized floundering in a courtroom in my life! And I have seen some very bad lawyering, up close and personal. But these guys? Fuhgeddaboudit. They take the cake, losing documents, unable to operate their tech or have a qualified assistant there to handle it, long boring pauses all over the place, endless uh’s and ah’s and now where was I’s? and Where is that’s? It was embarrassing. And painful.
Why painful? Because a man’s life is at stake. Sure, he’s a monster who stole from everyone he ever met, including most of his clients. Sure, they seem like nasty, arrogant, horrible rich people who take advantage of and bully everybody. It’s hard to know which one of them is more vile.
Still. It’s a trial. The Constitution is at play. A man’s life is riding on that. It’s kinda important.
My prediction is that 18 months or so from now, give or take, the news will be all about Alex Murdaugh’s retrial after his conviction is reversed for IAC. My call. And I know a ton more about this kind of stuff than the vast majority of the so called “pundits”, imho.