Judge asks to recuse himself from future Murdaugh murder trial hearings
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Court documents indicate the judge who presided over the murder trial for convicted killer Alex Murdaugh has asked for a new judge to be assigned to handle post-trial motions related to the case.
The word about Newman seeking to recuse himself came from a South Carolina Supreme Court order issued Thursday.
Murdaugh was convicted in March in the June 2021 murders of his wife, Maggie, and their son, Paul, in a six-week trial in Colleton County. Newman, a circuit judge who was appointed to handle all of Murdaugh’s cases, presided over that trial and has presided over various hearings related to scores of financial charges Murdaugh also faces.
Murdaugh’s defense team filed a motion on Nov. 1 asking for a writ of prohibition that would prevent Newman from all future trials and hearings as it seeks a new trial amid accusations of jury tampering. In that motion, Murdaugh defense attorneys Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin argued 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.
The order from the state Supreme Court denied a defense request to delay the hearing on 101 financial and narcotics charges, which is set to begin Nov. 27 in Beaufort County until a decision was made on whether to bar Newman from presiding.
It also denied the request for the writ of prohibition, calling it “moot,” since Newman requested a new judge be assigned.
The South Carolina Attorney General’s Office, which originally filed a response opposing the motion to delay the trial, refused to comment on Newman’s decision to request a new judge.
Murdaugh denies that he murdered his family and his defense team maintains there is no direct evidence of Murdaugh’s guilt.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
Copyright 2023 WCSC. All rights reserved.