The judge who ruled over the prosecution and punishment of convicted killer Alex Murdaugh spoke out Tuesday about some of the choices he made during the high-profile case.
South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman said on March 28 at his undergraduate school Cleveland State University that he did not expect Murdaugh’s prosecution to capture the nation’s focus beyond South Carolina.
“It was notable because it involved a lawyer accused of stealing over $8 million from a number of clients,” Newman said. “A lawyer who admitted to being high on drugs, and above all, a man accused of murdering his wife and son.”
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“And, despite those facts, which would certainly pique people’s interest, I believe that when I decided to open the entire process to the public, open to the media, and broadcast wherever it needed to be… nationwide and worldwide, I wasn’t experiencing any of that — I was simply a judge in a trial doing my job, as I’ve done repeatedly over the years,” he continued.
On March 3, Newman condemned Murdaugh to two straight life terms, one day after juries found him in the killings of his wife, Maggie Murdaugh, and his youngest son, Paul Murdaugh.
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Before issuing his punishment, Newman addressed Murdaugh directly, telling him that he will have to cope with the loss of his wife and son in his “own soul.”
“I know you have to see Paul and Maggie late at night when you’re trying to sleep,” Newman said. “I’m sure they’ll pay you a visit.”
In his address at Cleveland State, Newman expanded on those remarks.
“I don’t believe he hated his wife, and I certainly don’t believe he didn’t love his son,” he said. “But he committed the unforgivable, unimaginable crime, and there’s no way he’ll be able to sleep peacefully.”
He also discussed his decision to admit proof of Murdaugh’s claimed money offenses in the murder prosecution. Murdaugh has been charged with 99 charges of financial theft, claiming that he cheated his former legal company customers of approximately $8.8 million.
“I believe the record speaks for itself,” said Newman.
“Once a defendant takes the stand and testifies, almost everything is fair game,” he added, alluding to Murdaugh’s testimony in his own defense during the prosecution.
Murdaugh’s attorneys have stated that they intend to challenge Murdaugh’s punishment. He has not pled guilty to the other 99 money offenses counts.
Newman also discussed his choice to allow jurors to view the crime site at the Murdaugh family’s Moselle estate.
“It ended up, I thought, being helpful to the prosecution rather than the defense, despite the fact that the defense requested it,” he said.
Moselle recently sold for $3.9 million, and according to court records, Buster Murdaugh, Murdaugh’s living son, is scheduled to receive $530,000 of that money.
Newman is obligated by state law to resign this year when he reaches 72, but he is still designated to rule over the financial crimes cases in which Murdaugh will face trial, which means he could complete supervising the proceedings even if they continue into next year.
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