‘One of the most troubling cases’: Here’s what the judge who sentenced Murdaugh said

‘One of the most troubling cases’: Here’s what the judge who sentenced Murdaugh said

‘One of the most troubling cases’: Here’s what the judge who sentenced Murdaugh said


In a remarkable courtroom moment, the judge in Alex Murdaugh’s murder trial spoke in stark and personal terms ahead of the disgraced lawyer’s sentencing Friday for the murders of his wife and son. Judge Clifton Newman said he’d met many times in court and socially with Murdaugh, whose family was prominent for decades in the region’s legal community.

Here’s how Newman addressed Murdaugh before sentencing him to life in prison:

“This is one of the most troubling cases for the judge, the state, the defense, the media coverage throughout the nation,” Newman said. “You have a wife who has been murdered. A son who has been savagely murdered. A lawyer, a person from the respected family who has controlled justice in this community for over a century, a person whose grandfather hang at the back of the courthouse who I had to have ordered removed in order to ensure that a fair trial was had by both the state and the defense.

“And I have sat through the trial, and not only sat through the trial but as the presiding judge of the state grand jury and sat through and participated in the issuance of the search warrants of various sorts, bond hearings and have had to consider many things. We have this case, and I am also assigned to preside over 99 others at least, 99 others. And the testimony has come up regarding those other cases. I will not make any comment with regard to any other pending matter as I have been assigned those cases as well.

“It is also particularly troubling, Mr. Murdaugh, because as a member of the legal community, you have practiced before me, and we have seen each other at various occasions throughout the years, and it was especially heartbreaking for me to see you go in the media as a grieving father who lost a wife and son to being a person who was indicted to the person who killed them, and then you have engaged in duplicitous conduct here in the courtroom, here on the witness stand, and as established by the testimony throughout the time leading from the time of the indictment and prior to the time of the indictment to this point in time, certainly you have no obligation to say anything other than saying not guilty.

“Obviously, as appeals are probably expected or absolutely expected, I would not expect a confession of any kind. In fact, as I have presided over murder cases over the past 22 years, I have yet to find a defendant who could go there, who could go back to that moment in time when they decided to pull the trigger or otherwise murder someone. I have not been able to get anyone, any defendant, even those who have confessed to being guilty to go back to explain to me what happened at that moment in time when they opted to pull the trigger, when they opted to commit the most heinous crime known to man.

“In this case, it qualifies under our death penalty statue based on the statutory aggravating circumstances of two or more people being murdered by the defendant by one act or pursuant to one scheme or one course of conduct. I don’t question at all the decision of the state not to pursue the death penalty. But as I sit here in the courtroom and look around at the many portraits of judges and other court officials and reflect on the fact that over the past century, your family, including you, have been prosecuting people in this courtroom and many have received the death penalty, probably for lesser conduct. Remind me of the expression that you gave on the witness stand. Oh, what tangled web we weave. What did you mean by that?”

“I meant that when I lied, I continued to lie,” Murdaugh replied.

“And the question is when will it end? When will it end? And it has ended already for the jury, because they’ve concluded that you continue to lie and lied throughout your testimony. And perhaps with the throng of people here they have perhaps all believe or 80% or 99% believe that you lie now when your statement of denial to the court. Perhaps you believe it does not matter that there is nothing that can mitigate a sentence given the crime, crimes that were committed.

“A notice of alibi was filed in this case by council in November, and we conducted a pretrial hearing in which you claim to have been someplace else at the time of the crime, and then when you were placed at the scene of the crime in the last minutes or days, you switched courses and admitted to being there. And then that necessitated more, and now you have an opportunity to make your final appeal as an ex-lawyer. It is really surprising that you are waiving this right at this time. And if you opt to do so, it is up to you. You are not compelled to do so, but you have the opportunity to do so,” Newman explained.

“I will tell you again, that I respect this court. I am innocent. I would never under any circumstances hurt my wife Maggie and I would never under any circumstances hurt my son paw-paw,” Murdaugh insisted.

“And it might not have been you,” Newman replied. “It might have been the monster that you have become when you take 15, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 opioid pills, and maybe you become another person. I have seen that before. The person standing before me is not the person who committed the crime, though it is the same individual. We’ll leave it at that. Before announcing sentence on these cases with regard to all of the other pending cases, are any of them here? I believe some of them are, and have been in Buford and other places.

“We may have worn out our welcome here. And I will thank all of the sheriff’s office, and I know that Mr. Harpootlian has sacrificed many, many things, and to have the attorney general here, Mr. Alan Wilson, to be here along with everyone else, it has been quite a sacrifice, but there are other victims whose cases deserve to be heard.

“And this case has jumped on some of those other cases, perhaps jumped it because of the case assaulting the integrity of the judicial integrity of our state, and even in this trial, law enforcement have been maligned for the past five or six weeks by one who had access to the wheels of justice to be able to deflect the investigation and as the evidence has pointed out in this case, looming storm that Mr. Waters talked about.

“I can just imagine on that day June 7th when a lawyer is confronted and confesses to having stolen over half a million dollars from a client, and he has a tagger like Mark Tinsley on his tail pursuing the death of Mallory Beach and having a father for the most part on his deathbed, I can imagine, or I can’t really imagine, but I know that it had to be quite a bit going through your mind on that day. But amazingly to have you come to testify that it was just another ordinary day that my wife and son and I were just out enjoying life. It is not credible. It is not believable. You can convince yourself about it, but obviously, you have the inability to convince anyone else about that.

“So, if you made any such arguments as a lawyer, you would lose every case about that, and cases that you will not have the opportunity to argue anymore, except perhaps your own as you sit in the Department of Corrections.

“Anything further?” the judge asked.

“No, sir,” Murdaugh replied.

“All right. Mr. Murdaugh, I sentence you to the state Department of Corrections on each of the murder indictments in the murder of your wife Maggie Murdaugh. I sentence you for the term of your natural life. For the murder of Paul Murdaugh, whom you probably loved so much, I sentence you to prison for murdering him for the rest of your natural life. Those sentences will run consecutive. Under the statute involving a crime where there is no other involving indictment of other crimes, you are remanded to the Department of Corrections. And officers may carry forth on the imposition.”

This is a developing story and will be updated.


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