The judge who oversaw the trial and conviction of disgraced South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh explained his emotional comments during sentencing while giving a speech at his alma mater, Cleveland State University.
While sentencing Murdaugh to two consecutive life sentences for the murders of his wife, Maggie, and youngest son, Paul, South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman told the convicted murderer that he would have to deal with their deaths in his “own soul,” according to Today.
“I know you have to see Paul and Maggie during the night time when you’re attempting to go to sleep,” Newman said. “I’m sure they come and visit you.”
During his speech at CSU on Tuesday, Newman explained that he didn’t believe Murdaugh “hated his wife, and certainly I did not believe that he did not love his son, but he committed the unforgivable, unimaginable crime, and there’s no way that he’ll be able to sleep peacefully.”
Newman also said in his speech that he was surprised by how much attention the trial received nationwide.
“It had the added notoriety because it involved a lawyer who had been accused of stealing over $8 million from a number of clients,” Newman said, according to Today. “A lawyer who admittedly was strung out on drugs and more than anything else, a man who’s accused of killing his wife and his son.”
“And despite those type of facts that would certainly make folks interested, I believe when I decided to make the entire process open to the public and open to the media and broadcast wherever it needed to be … nationwide and worldwide, I wasn’t experiencing any of that — I was simply a judge in a trial doing my job, as I’ve done repeatedly over the years,” he added.
Newman also said during his speech that he didn’t anticipate the jurors’ visit to the Murdaugh property helping the prosecution.
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“It ended up, I thought, being helpful to the prosecution and not to the defense, though requested by the defense,” he said.
Newman sentenced Murdaugh on March 3, one day after the former attorney was found guilty of killing his wife and son.
Lead prosecutor Creighton Waters explained to the judge at the time that the evidence in the trial “shows [Murdaugh] to be a cunning manipulator, a man who placed himself above all others, including his family, a man who violated the trust of so many – including his friends, his family, his partners, his profession, but most of all Maggie and Paul.”
Murdaugh’s attorneys declined to comment during the hearing, but Murdaugh himself once again proclaimed his innocence.
“I’m innocent. I would never hurt my wife, Maggie, and I would never hurt my son Paul,” Murdaugh said, according to Avery Wilks, chief investigative reporter for the Post and Courier.
Judge Newman excoriated Murdaugh for his repeated lies, including Murdaugh’s insistence that he was never at the dog kennels – where Maggie and Paul were murdered – on the day of the crime. Cell phone evidence proved that was a lie, and Murdaugh admitted to lying while testifying in his own defense during the trial.