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Judge in Alex Murdaugh's Murder Trial Steps Down from Further Hearings Involving a Possible Retrial

Judge Clifton Newman has asked that a new judge preside over all future hearings involving Alex Murdaugh's request for a new murder trial.

By Elisabeth Ford
Alex Murdaugh Gets Life Sentence In Wife, Son’s Killings

The judge who oversaw Alex Murdaugh’s murder convictions announced he will be stepping away from all further hearings involving the disgraced legal scion’s request for a new murder trial.

This month, the South Carolina Supreme Court denied Murdaugh’s motion to remove Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman as he seeks to overturn his double murder conviction, The Post and Courier reported, citing the order. But on Thursday, Newman voluntarily recused himself, asking that a new judge preside over Murdaugh’s request for a retrial.

“Judge Newman has requested that a new judge be assigned to handle the post-trial motions involving the murder charges,” the court wrote in its order, per FITSNews.com, which was first to report the development.

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According to The Post and Courier, the justice is still involved in the disbarred attorney’s financial-related trial, to which he pleaded guilty of all charges Friday.

Judge Clifton Newman during the Alex Murdaugh trial

Murdaugh’s Double Murder Conviction

Murdaugh was found guilty in March of fatally shooting his wife Maggie Murdaugh, 52, and son Paul Murdaugh, 22, at the family’s estate on June 7, 2021. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

The former lawyer subsequently launched an effort to overturn his conviction based on allegations of jury tampering. Murdaugh’s defense team has accused Colleton County Clerk of Court Rebecca Hill of influencing the jurors’ guilty verdict. Hill has vehemently denied these allegations.

The defense concurrently filed a motion to remove Newman from the hearing request, which was rejected in a Nov. 16 state Supreme Court order. The defense argued that Newman may have been a witness to jury tampering. They also accused the justice of being partial during Murdaugh’s murder sentencing hearing, calling him a “monster.”

"Mr. Murdaugh’s right to have his appeal heard by an impartial judge will be violated if Judge Newman proceeds to hear his motion for a new trial," the motion stated, Oxygen.com previously reported. Defense lawyers Jim Griffin and Dick Harpootlian made it clear that they aren’t accusing Newman of having done "anything improper during the trial."

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At his sentencing hearing, Murdaugh maintained his innocence. "I would never under any circumstances hurt my wife, Maggie, and I would never under any circumstances hurt my son, Paul," he said, according to NBC News.

Alex Murdaugh Arrives In Court smiling wearing an orange jumpsuit

Newman responded: "It might not have been you. It might have been the monster you've become when you take 15, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 opioid pills. Maybe you become another person. I've seen that before. The person standing before me was not the person who committed the crime, though is the same individual."

Newman agreed to step down from the appeals process, the Associated Press reported, citing Thursday’s state supreme court order.

Alex Murdaugh’s Guilty Plea in Financial Crimes

Murdaugh went before Newman Friday and pleaded guilty to a slew of financial crimes, including money laundering, per a plea deal, The New York Times reported.  His guilty plea means he will spend decades in prison no matter the outcome of any murder retrial. The deal outlined Murdaugh to spend 27 years behind bars for the financial crimes.

He is scheduled to be officially sentenced at a Nov. 28 hearing, per the Times.