On Thursday, November 2, 2023, The State reported that lawyers for convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh have filed motions with the South Carolina Supreme Court seeking to remove Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman from handling any further proceedings in the case. In nearly 300 pages of filings, the defense argues that Newman can no longer be considered impartial.
Murdaugh, a disbarred attorney, is seeking a new trial over allegations that the clerk of court tampered with the jury in his murder trial. He was convicted by a Colleton County jury of murdering his wife Maggie, 52, and son Paul, 22 in 2021 at their family estate. Judge Newman then sentenced Murdaugh to two consecutive life sentences.
His attorneys now claim Newman must recuse himself since he was involved in matters related to the alleged jury tampering and may be called as a witness at a hearing on the issue.
The filings note several statements Newman made after the trial expressing his personal views of Murdaugh’s guilt that violate judicial conduct rules requiring impartiality. Newman also spoke about the case publically on national television and at law conferences.
In addition to the murder convictions, Murdaugh has also pled guilty in federal court to committing multiple financial crimes over more than a decade, including embezzlement from his law firm, clients, friends, and others.
The defense acknowledges that Newman was praised for his handling of the high-profile trial. But they argue his role has now changed with the motion for a new trial, and he should no longer oversee proceedings given his first-hand knowledge of issues in dispute.
Prosecutors have opposed removing Newman, saying the defense’s claims do not merit taking another judge time to get up to speed on the complex case. A decision by the Supreme Court is pending. Murdaugh’s attorneys call this filing their most aggressive move yet to ensure his right to an impartial judge and hearing.
Source: The State