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Alex Murdaugh's Murder Trial Judge Speaks Publicly For First Time: 'The Person Who Is Killed Will Haunt'
Clifton Newman, the judge who presided over Alex Murdaugh's double murder trial, said earlier this week that he's been told that people who kill will "never be able to get over the moment in time they took that person’s life."
The judge who presided over Alex Murdaugh's double murder trial has spoken publicly for the first time about the case, saying earlier this week that he's been told that people who kill will "never be able to get over the moment in time they took that person’s life."
Judge Clifton Newman sentenced Murdaugh to life in prison without parole on March 3, the day after the disgraced former South Carolina lawyer was found guilty by a jury for murdering his wife Maggie and their youngest son Paul.
“A person who kills another person, I’m told that the person who is killed will haunt, will come back, and they’ll never be able to get over the moment in time they took that person’s life,” Newman said Tuesday while on a panel at Cleveland State University, according to video posted by Charleston station WCBD-TV.
“Whether that’s a spiritual belief or just my view of the word," he added, "it was also the subject of a barbershop conversation one day when a customer was arguing to the barber, saying that, 'If you kill a man, he will haunt you. He'll come back, and you will never be able to get that person out of your mind.'”
Newman mentioned discussing this topic with Murdaugh before sentencing him. “In my mind, no doubt, he loved his family,” Newman said Tuesday. “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 an unforgivable, unimaginable crime. And there’s no way that he’ll be able to sleep peacefully given those facts.”
The judge had made similar comments to Murdaugh in court on March 3. “Within your own soul you have to deal with that,” the judge said before sentencing, according to Law&Crime. “I know you have to see Paul and Maggie during the nighttime when you’re attempting to go to sleep. I’m sure they come and visit you. I’m sure.”
Newman also addressed this week the fact that Murdaugh's defense team did not offer any mitigation evidence, which is typically presented during the sentencing phase of a trial and aims to reduce the punishment.
“So, here we are, and he’s standing before me to be sentenced for having been convicted of a double murder," Newman said. "And basically he told me he had nothing to say, either, other than, ‘It wasn’t me.'”
Newman was asked Tuesday if it was difficult for him to serve as the judge sentencing Murdaugh when the former lawyer practiced in front of him.
“Well, being from a small, rural community, and being from a relatively small state, I’ve had to handle cases where I knew the person who was accused or knew the victims,” Newman answered. “Judges have to make an individual determination as to whether they can be fair and impartial.
"But my test is not whether I know the person or knew of the person, it has to be whether my knowledge of them would affect my ability to be fair and impartial," Newman added. "And we weren’t personal friends, but since he was from a popular firm and a popular lawyer, all judges, every judge in the state either knew him or knew of him. ... But it did not affect me as far as rendering the sentence that I did."
A judge who was asking Newman questions during Tuesday's question and answer session suggested that a movie or miniseries will surely be made one day about the Murdaugh case, adding that Newman's wife previously suggested Denzel Washington when the question was posed to them.
"I never would have thought that I would be involved in a case that would have garnered so much notoriety that it would be something that would be talked about nationwide," Newman responded. "I've received letters from all over the world about this case.
"I don't know what the future holds as far as movies or anything else," he said. "But I do know that we have mandatory retirement in South Carolina at the age of 72 [for state court judges], and I turn 72 in November, so I'll be looking for something else to do."