Murdaugh murders brings about questions of Jury Duty
March 21, 2023
The newly released Netflix original, Mudaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal, has taken the media by storm and attracted the attention of many to the case of a stomach-churning chain of events connected to the Mudaugh family. The Netflix true crime docuseries dissected the factual events and traumatizing story behind the killing of two members of an elite southern family from South Carolina. Paul Murdaugh, 22, and his mother Margaret “Maggie” Murdaugh, 52, were found dead in their family hunting lodge in June 2021. Even more interesting is the trail of previously deceased victims that came to light after the eventual demise of the prestigious and powerful family. The string of tumultuous events, including the tragic death of a young girl named Mallory Beach, whose life was taken in a drunken boating accident, are all portrayed in the series on Netflix and play a key role in attracting viewers.
What makes this show so captivating is the live, true-story ending viewers could witness as the sentencing and verdict were delivered shortly after the Netflix series was released to the public. One of the most notable aspects of the trial was the decision of the jury. The climax of the case and the full-circle ending to the television series culminated in Alex Mudaugh being found guilty on all counts and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Alex Murdaugh’s trial lasted six weeks and took only three hours for the jury to decide the guilty The disbarred South Carolina lawyer was convicted of murdering his wife and son after a gamble to testify in his own defense and a jury trip to the crime sce https://t.co/RtSz5zCpaF
— Oleg Fabyanchuk (@olegfab77) March 13, 2023
After witnessing the trial live, many questions about jury duty came to light. For each state the parameters of jury service differ, but in Florida, there are two different kinds of jury duties. In the state of Florida, those residents over 18 with a valid ID can be summoned for two different types of juries. Petit Jurors are called to serve in District Court jury trials for both civil and criminal cases. Six to twelve people make up a civil jury, which would decide the outcome of numerous litigation. Twelve jurors are required for criminal trials, plus at least one alternate. Grand jurors, who are much less often called to duty, decide whether someone will be tried for a significant federal offense that was allegedly committed. Over this implied 18-month term of service, the grand jury meets once a month for one to three days. If there is enough evidence to support a true bill of indictment, the sessions are held in secret and an investigation into a federal crime commences.
It is also interesting to know whether or not the jury members involved in such a public hearing were kept safe through any protective measures within the judiciary system. The judge in the case can ensure safety for summoned members by keeping their identities protected by ensuring all records remain confidential and having all parties refer to jurors by their numbers rather than names as well as having bailiffs escort them to their cars after service. In addition, federal judges can authorize free counseling to jurors who served in a traumatic trial.
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In the Murdaugh Murders case after the verdict came out, a lot of people noticed the alternate juror, who had to remain with the case the entire time but could not voice their opinion when advocating for the final verdict. While being a stand-in is highly inconvenient and frustrating, it is an important safeguard in the system to keep whole trials from being thrown out if one juror becomes unable to participate. Alternate jurors are selected for the jury but not able to render a verdict. Other potential jurors never make it that far and are instead just part of a potential jury pool. They are expected to call the number listed on the summons each night for two weeks to see if their number is called to serve. If it is not, the expectation to resume normal activities is upheld. As exemplified in the Murdaugh Murders trial, the jury was kept away from the public and could not go home. This is called being sequestered and the purpose is to prevent outside influences like media, family and friends from swaying a juror’s decision. They were never shown on camera and their names were not released. After the announcement of the verdict, the judge ensured that he would serve to maintain their safety if they chose to announce their position in the case to the grander public.
Even though the case of the Murdaugh family murders has been closed, the public is just now grasping the tragic facts that were presented and how the legal system worked and did not work in this situation. This has led to super fans hunting down more evidence to put towards the trial. However, because Alex Murdaugh has begun his life sentence without parole, the prosecution cannot charge him again for these specific crimes, the murder of his wife and son, even if further evidence shows that he is guilty. He can, however, be tried for different charges. In the future, maybe justice can be served on the other mysterious coincidences linked to his family name and more citizens will be able to play an integral role as jurors.