‘Unimaginable Crime’: Judge in Murdaugh Murder Trial Speaks Out

·2 min read
Reuters/Reuters
Reuters/Reuters

The South Carolina judge who presided over Alex Murdaugh’s double-murder trial did not mince words on Tuesday as he spoke out for the first time on the infamous case.

“I don’t believe that he hated his wife, and certainly I did not believe that he did not love his son, but he committed the unforgivable, unimaginable crime, and there’s no way that he’ll be able to sleep peacefully,” Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman said in a speech at his alma mater, Cleveland State University, on Tuesday evening.

Newman shared his thoughts weeks after the conclusion of Murdaugh’s six-week trial, where the former lawyer was convicted of murdering his wife, Maggie, and his son, Paul, near the dog kennels of the family’s hunting estate in June 2021. The day after the swift conviction, Newman delivered a searing speech slamming Murdaugh as a “monster” whose conduct was worse than many death row inmates before handing him two life sentences.

Judge Sends ‘Monster’ Murdaugh to Die in Prison

But on Tuesday, Newman spoke for the first time about his views on the trial, admitting he was surprised it had received so much national attention and expressing his admiration for the 12-person jury who ultimately convicted Murdaugh.

“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,” Newman said.

“It had the added notoriety because it involved a lawyer who had been accused of stealing over $8 million from a number of clients,” he explained. “A lawyer who admittedly was strung out on drugs and more than anything else, a man who’s accused of killing his wife and his son.”

Newman also spoke about several key decisions he made during the trial that could have contributed to the conviction—including allowing prosecutors to use Murdaugh’s alleged financial crimes as evidence. Murdaugh currently faces over 100 separate charges, ranging from financial crimes for allegedly stealing from his clients and former law firm, to staging his own murder for an insurance payout for his only surviving son.

“I think the record speaks for itself,” Newman said.

The judge also discussed Murdaugh’s time on the stand—perhaps one of the most pivotal moments of the trial—during which he admitted to lying to prosecutors about his whereabouts the night of the murders and several financial crimes.

“Once a defendant takes the stand and testifies, almost everything is fair game at that point,” Newman said. Murdaugh’s legal team has said they plan to appeal the conviction.

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