Judge who sentenced Alex Murdaugh to two life sentences voluntarily recuses himself from post-trial hearings after killer’s lawyers called for him to be booted over controversial TV interview
The judge who sentenced Alex Murdaugh to two life sentences has voluntarily withdrawn from all post-trial hearings after the killer’s lawyers called for him to resign after giving a controversial TV interview.
South Carolina District Court Judge Clifton Newman has asked to be recused from further actions related to the case after Murdaugh was convicted in March of the brutal murders of his wife Maggie and 22-year-old son Paul.
Murdaugh’s attorneys had attempted to block Judge Newman from hearing the disbarred attorney’s request for a new trial.
The lawyers also wanted the Supreme Court to dismiss Newman from an upcoming case in which Murdaugh is being prosecuted for a series of alleged financial crimes that prosecutors say he committed as his life spiraled out of control before the killings.
In a court filing earlier on Thursday, first reported by Suits newsIt said: ‘Judge Newman has requested that a new judge be appointed to hear the post-trial claims relating to the murder charge.’
South Carolina District Court Judge Clifton Newman, seen here, has recused himself from further actions related to the case
Lawyers for convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh are asking South Carolina’s highest court to dismiss the judge who presided over the murder trial from his bid for a new trial
The court order states that Newman was unable to rule on the upcoming motions because he was a potential witness to allegations of jury tampering by clerk Becky Hill.
Newman was also said to have made multiple out-of-court comments in the wake of Murdaugh’s guilty verdict in the filing.
The court order has left the door open for Newman to return to Murdaugh’s first financial crimes trial, which is set to begin later this month.
But when the Supreme Court ruled on Newman this morning, Murdaugh’s attorneys filed a motion asking Newman to recuse himself from that case.
The defense noted in the motion, “Judge Newman should also be disqualified from presiding over the trial in this case, or from any other proceeding involving Murdaugh.”
A hearing is scheduled for Friday to discuss the upcoming financial trial, which Murdaugh’s attorneys want to hold at a different location to ensure an impartial jury.
Murdaugh’s attorneys had previously spoken about Newman’s comments at the sentencing and in several post-trial interviews.
After the jury returned a guilty verdict within hours, Newman made lengthy remarks before handing down his sentence of two life sentences.
Among other things, he wondered aloud whether the ghosts of Murdaugh’s wife and son haunted him at night.
Colleton County Clerk Becky Hill, pictured with Judge Newman, is accused by Murdaugh’s defense team of influencing the jury as they seek a new trial.
These comments came after the jury’s verdict, and judges are typically given space to express their opinions on the case while explaining their sentencing decision to an offender.
Newman also appeared on the Today Show and in a taped interview at the law school of Cleveland State University, his alma mater, where he discussed the case at length.
Murdaugh is serving life without parole in the 2021 shooting at their home.
Investigators said 52-year-old Maggie was shot four or five times with a rifle and 22-year-old Paul was shot two times.
Even if his conviction is overturned, Murdaugh will likely remain in prison.
He is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to federal charges that he stole millions of dollars from clients and his family law firm, which will likely mean years or decades behind bars. That process will begin later this month.
Investigators said 52-year-old Maggie was shot four or five times with a rifle and 22-year-old Paul was shot two times. Both are seen here next to Murdaugh
In an earlier court filing, his attorneys summarized how they believe Hill tampered with the jury in the murder trial.
“She asked jurors for their opinions on Mr. Murdaugh’s guilt or innocence. She instructed them not to believe the evidence in Mr. Murdaugh’s defense, including his own testimony.
“She lied to the judge to dismiss a juror who she thought would vote not guilty. And she pressured jurors to reach a quick guilty verdict so she could benefit,” they wrote.
They quote Newman’s comment to the jury after her guilty verdicts about “all the evidence points to only one conclusion and that is the conclusion you have all come to.”
In the speech at his alma mater, Newman said Murdaugh “committed an unforgivable, unimaginable crime and there is no way he can sleep peacefully.”
Newman’s age means he must retire as a judge at the end of the year, and Murdaugh’s lawyers suggest that’s why he spoke so much afterward, thinking it would be years before the appeals were heard. But the accusation against Hill required an immediate hearing, they said.
And while they believe Newman’s comments violated court rules, Murdaugh’s lawyers previously said they did not want him punished.
Murdaugh is said to have been outraged by accusations of jury tampering during his double murder trial, his lawyers had previously said.