Judge who jailed Alex Murdaugh has 'no doubt he loved his family'

‘He won’t be able to sleep peacefully’: Judge who sentenced Alex Murdaugh to two life sentences has ‘no doubt he loved his family’ and shrugs off national attention he gained during trial as ‘simply a judge doing my job’

  • Judge Clifton Newman jailed Murdaugh, 54, for life for killing his wife and son
  • Newman has ‘no doubt’ Murdaugh loved his family but says he won’t ‘sleep peacefully’ again
  • ‘I don’t believe that he hates his wife and certainly I do not believe that he did not love his son,’ the judge said during a talk at Cleveland State University

The judge who presided over Alex Murdaugh’s murder trial has ‘no doubt’ the legal scion loved his wife and son – but says he’ll never ‘sleep peacefully’ after killing them.

Judge Clifton Newman sentenced Murdaugh, 54, to two consecutive life sentences earlier this month for killing wife Maggie, 52, and younger son Paul, 22, at the family’s sprawling hunting estate on the night of June 7, 2021.

He has now spoken publicly for the first time since the trial concluded with a talk at his alma mater, Cleveland State University, that included fascinating insights about his approach to the trial.

Newman gained national attention during the trial, including for his powerful sentencing remarks. Jailing Murdaugh for life, he told him: ‘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.’

Speaking at CSU on Tuesday, Newman elaborated on his comments and said: ‘In my mind, no doubt he loved his family.’

Speaking publicly for the first time since sentencing Murdaugh to life in prison, Judge Clifton Newman said he has ‘no doubt’ the lawyer loved his family

Alex Murdaugh with wife Maggie and their sons Buster (left) and Paul (right)

‘I don’t believe that he hates his wife and certainly I do 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,’ the judge said.

Newman also shrugged off the international attention he gain during the trial.

‘I was simply a judge in a trial doing my job, as I’ve done repeatedly over the years,’ he said.

Newman also explained his decision to allow jurors in the trial to visit Murdaugh’s ranch, where the murders took place.

‘It ended up, I thought, being helpful to the prosecution and not to the defense, though requested by the defense,’ said the judge.

‘But this murder scene was a remote area, remote, remote area, and it was easy for law enforcement to secure the scene and for for the jurors to go out and reflect on what they had been told through the testimony and shown through the testimony, through pictures and videos, to kind of look at it for themselves.’

He also accepted his decision to allow Murdaugh’s financial crimes to be used in the trial was ‘controversial’.

Murdaugh stole millions of dollars from his legal clients and law firm but his lawyers at the murder trial argued the jury shouldn’t be told about that. Prosecutors said it pushed him to kill his wife and son.

During the trial, Newman said the jury was ‘entitled to consider whether the apparent desperation of Mr Murdaugh, because of his dire financial situation and threat of being exposed for committing the crimes of which he was later charged with, resulted in the commission of the [murders].’

During his talk on Tuesday, the judge said that he initially planned to rule that much of the evidence should be limited to the ‘moment of the day of the murders’.

But he added: ‘The lawyers, I ruled, opened the door to many other things by the manner in which they presented the evidence.

‘Then, of course, once the defendant takes the stand and testifies, then almost everything is fair game at that point.’

Murdaugh has maintained his innocence and his lawyers filed a motion on March 9 to appeal his conviction.

He is currently being held in his own cell at the Kirkland Reception and Evaluation Center, where he will undergo 45 days of testing before the South Carolina Department of Corrections decides where he should be permanently placed. 

During the trial, jurors heard from more than 75 witnesses and viewed nearly 800 pieces of evidence.

They also heard about Murdaugh’s betrayal of friends and clients, his failed attempt to stage his own death in an insurance fraud scheme, a fatal crash in which his son was implicated, the housekeeper who died in a fall in the Murdaugh home and the grisly scene of the killings.

Alex Murdaugh in a mugshot with his head shaved and wearing a yellow jumpsuit after being booked into South Carolina’s Kirkland Reception and Evaluation Center

Judge Clifton Newman gave a searing assessment of Murdaugh’s ‘duplicitous’; character 

Eventually, the lawyer took the stand to admit to stealing millions of dollars from the family firm and clients, saying he needed the money to fund his opioid habit.

He also admitted he had lied to investigators about being at the kennels where Maggie and Paul died, saying he was paranoid of law enforcement because he was addicted to opioids and had pills in his pocket the night of the killings.

Prosecutors did not have the weapons used to kill the Murdaughs or other direct evidence like confessions or blood spatter.

But they had a mountain of circumstantial evidence, including the video putting Murdaugh at the scene of the killings five minutes before his wife and son stopped using their mobile phones forever.

When he gave evidence, Murdaugh appeared to cry as he denied again and again that he killed his wife.

But jurors rejected his sob story. Juror Craig Moyer said he saw through yet another lie.

‘He never cried. All he did was blow snot,’ Moyer said after the trial. ‘No tears. I saw his eyes. I was this close to him.’

It took the jury just a few hours to convict him.

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