The South Carolina judge who oversaw the double murder trial of disgraced lawyer Alex Murdaugh has asked to be removed from future proceedings in the high-profile case.
Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman, who gave a powerful rebuke of Murdaugh as he handed down a life sentence in March for the killings of his wife and son in 2021, “has requested that a new judge be assigned to handle the post-trial motions involving the murder charges,” according to an order filed Thursday by the South Carolina Supreme Court’s chief justice. The filing was first reported by FITSNews.com.
For more on the case, watch “The Murdaugh Murders: Inside the Investigation” on Dateline at 9 ET/8 CT Friday.
Newman, however, is still slated to preside over Murdaugh’s upcoming state trial on related financial crimes charges.
Murdaugh’s defense team is seeking to delay the trial’s Nov. 27 start date after asking for a change of venue given the widespread publicity surrounding the case. A hearing with Newman regarding outstanding motions with the trial is scheduled for Friday morning in Beaufort County.
At the conclusion of the double murder trial, attorneys for Murdaugh, 55, filed a notice to appeal his guilty verdict in the fatal shootings of Margaret, 52, and their youngest son, Paul, 22, at the family’s hunting lodge in rural Colleton County.
In September, Murdaugh’s defense team filed a motion asking for a new trial, accusing the Colleton County Clerk of Court Rebecca Hill of tampering with the jury, including “pressuring them to reach a quick guilty verdict, and even misrepresenting critical and material information to the trial judge in her campaign to remove a juror she believed to be favorable to the defense.”
In a sworn statement filed last week by state prosecutors, Hill, whose job was to oversee the logistics of the trial, denied the jury tampering allegations.
As part of their appeal, the defense lawyers had asked for Newman to step down because he would potentially be a witness in any hearing involving the allegations against Hill. They also questioned Newman’s impartiality after he spoke publicly about the case following the trial, including an interview on NBC’s “TODAY” show.
“I cannot imagine him having a peaceful night knowing what he did,” Newman said of Murdaugh on “TODAY,” which was in line with his comments during sentencing. “I’m sure if he had an opportunity to do it over again, he’d never do it.”
Neither defense lawyers nor state prosecutors immediately responded to a request for comment.
Murdaugh has proclaimed his innocence in the deaths of his wife and son since a grand jury indicted him in the murders last year. Prosecutors alleged he killed them to gain pity before he would be exposed for a slew of financial crimes.
Murdaugh took the stand at his trial, admitted lying repeatedly to investigators and said he was dishonest about his alibi on the night of the murders because of his addiction to pain pills and general paranoia.
In September, he pleaded guilty in federal court to almost two dozen counts of financial fraud and money laundering. As part of a plea deal, his federal sentence must run concurrent with any state sentence he may be given if he is found guilty.