‘What Turns a Man Into a Monster?’: Megyn on Why the Murdaugh Murder Trial Gripped the Nation

Since Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were found shot to death outside their rural Islandton, SC, home in June 2021, there has been national interest in the case. The Murdaugh family was one of South Carolina’s most influential dynasties, and Alex Murdaugh called 911 to report he found his wife and youngest son dead. He denied any wrongdoing, but the walls eventually closed in on the now disgraced attorney. He was indicted in July 2022 with two counts of murder and two weapons charges – to which he pleaded not guilty.

After listening to six weeks of testimony – including Alex taking the stand in his own defense – it took the jury just three hours to find him guilty on all counts on Thursday. By Friday morning, Judge Clifton Newman had sentenced Alex to two consecutive life sentences. 

You couldn’t turn on the TV, open a newspaper, or go online the last six weeks without being inundated with Murdaugh-related content. On Friday, Megyn opened the show by reflecting on why this case and its shocking details so captured the attention of the country.

The Beauty of the American Justice System

As Megyn explained, there is a uniqueness to the justice system in the United States that makes the return of any jury verdict inherently interesting. “Verdicts in American legal history tend to be gripping,” she said. “Our legal system is by far the best that exists on earth because we’ve done so much to try to make it fair for the defendants.”

In general, the judicial process “is so weighted in favor of the state,” Megyn noted, yet the U.S. system seeks balance and “sets up conflict,” “sets up drama,” and “sets up putting one’s fate in the hand of 12 strangers.” That “in and of itself is somewhat dramatic and gripping, but I think this case has really captured the attention of the nation in a special way,” she added.

Why the Murdaugh Trial Gripped the Nation

So, why has the Murdaugh double murder trial so gripped the nation? As Megyn pointed out, we’ve seen similarly tragic instances where a husband or father kills a family member, but something about this case was different. “It’s really captured people’s attention because it has forced us to ask the dark questions we try to avoid about human nature and even about ourselves,” she said. “We all know there’s murder, there’s bad guys, there’s horrific acts that go on out there, but we try to tell ourselves, ‘that’s somebody else.’”

Typically, when we watch Dateline or listen to a true crime podcast, we are able to say: That’s not my life. That wouldn’t happen to me. I would know. I would see it. I don’t associate with people like that. But the Murdaugh situation is, in many ways, at odds with that. “This is a respected trial attorney from a revered family, a family man, we were told, an affable guy most people really liked,” Megyn explained. “This is not some boogeyman from the dark dregs of society.”

Because of that, we are left asking ourselves “what turns a person like that from a man into a monster, and how do we grapple with it when the monster was hiding in plain sight and no one knew,” she said.

What’s Different About Alex Murdaugh?

The defense team attempted to argue that Alex was a loving father and husband. We heard testimony that painted the Murdaugh family as one that “celebrated birthdays together” and “seemed to love one another” – that is “until the day Alex Murdaugh blew his son’s head off and gunned his wife down five times just after she presumably watched her own son die,” Megyn said.

If you are left wondering how any of this can be true, Megyn says it’s because murderers don’t always fit the profile we imagine them to. We often assume that they “are supposed to look like boogeymen and sound like boogeymen,” she explained. “You’re supposed to hear the anger in their voice and anticipate that something terrible is about to happen.” But that’s not necessarily the case. 

When you hear the video of Alex talking in the dog kennel just minutes before he kills his wife and son, Megyn noted that he “sounds totally nonplussed.” It’s an eerie reminder that “murderers are not always Manson look-alikes; they’re not even always strangers,” she said. “Murder can and often is committed by one family member against another, and, while the vast majority of us cannot fathom it, it happens.”

This, she said, is why we can’t look away. “Understanding why can be nearly impossible but is, understandably, compelling,” she concluded. “It is, I believe, why we tune in… and why we find ourselves drawn into these cases even though we think they have nothing to do with us.”

You can check out Megyn’s full breakdown of the Murdaugh verdict by tuning in to episode 505 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.