Alex Murdaugh’s defense wants judge removed from future trials

Published: Nov. 1, 2023 at 2:21 PM EDT|Updated: Nov. 1, 2023 at 3:12 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - The defense representing convicted killer and disbarred Lowcountry attorney Alex Murdaugh wants the judge who presided over his murder trial removed from all future trials and hearings.

Court documents filed Wednesday seek a Writ of Prohibition against Circuit Judge Clifton Newman. Newman was appointed to preside over all cases involving Murdaugh. It was Newman who presided over the murder trial in which Murdaugh was accused of the June 2021 killings of his wife, Maggie; and their son, Paul, at the family’s rural hunting property in Colleton County.

Murdaugh attorneys Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin previously requested a new trial amid allegations the Colleton County Clerk of Court engaged in what they called jury tampering.

In the new motion, the defense argues Newman should be barred from presiding over any future cases because he “has personal knowledge about the clerk of court’s conduct” which they argue will be disputed at a hearing about whether Murdaugh should have a new trial. Documents also allege Newman made statements after the judge returned guilty verdicts that violated the Code of Judicial Conduct.

“These statements include congratulating the jury for returning the correct verdict, statements at sentencing evidencing personal bias, and statements in public interviews after the trial (including an interview on a nationally broadcast news program) in which Judge Newman stated his personal opinion regarding Mr. Murdaugh’s guilt, legal issues on appeal, and strategic choices by Mr. Murdaugh’s counsel during trial,” the documents state.

At his sentencing, in response to Murdaugh’s statement that he was innocent of the murders of his family, Newman answered, “It might not have been you. It might have been the monster you become” when taking large amounts of opiates.

Murdaugh denies that he murdered his family and his defense team maintains there is no direct evidence of Murdaugh’s guilt.