Judge Newman tells Murdaugh at sentencing, “I know you have to see Paul and Maggie during the nighttime when you’re attempting to go to sleep”

Judge Clifton Newman looks at the prosecution during Alex Murdaugh’s trial for murder at the...
Judge Clifton Newman looks at the prosecution during Alex Murdaugh’s trial for murder at the Colleton County Courthouse on Friday, February 17, 2023. Joshua Boucher/The State/Pool(Joshua Boucher | jboucher@thestate.com)
Published: Mar. 3, 2023 at 5:53 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A day after being found guilty of the murders of his wife Maggie and son Paul, disbarred Lowcountry attorney Alex Murdaugh addressed the court one last time before being sentenced Friday morning.

Judge Clifton Newman sentenced Murdaugh to life in prison after being convicted of two counts of murder and two weapon charges.

Murdaugh addressed the court and said “Good morning your honor. I am innocent. I will never hurt my wife Maggie, and I would never hurt my son, Pawpaw.”

Upon his statement, Newman responded to Murdaugh before sentencing him,

“This has been perhaps one of the most troubling cases, not just for me as a judge, for the state, for the defense team, but for all of the citizens in this community, all citizens in this state. And as we have seen, based on the media coverage throughout the nation, you have a wife who’s been killed, murdered, a son savagely murdered.

A lawyer, a person from a respected family who has controlled justice in this community for over a century. A person whose grandfather’s portrait hung at the back of the courthouse that I had to have ordered removed in order to ensure that a fair trial was held by both the state and the defense.

And I sat through the trial, not only having sat through the trial but also as the presiding judge of the state grand jury sat through and participated in the issuance of search warrants of various sorts of bond hearings and have had to consider many things.

And we have this case and I’m also assigned to preside over 99 others, at least 99 of the cases. The testimony has come up regarding many of those other cases. I will not make any comment with regard to any other pending matter as I have been assigned those cases as well.

It’s also particularly troubling, Mr. Murdaugh, because as a member of the legal community and a well-known member of the legal community, you’ve practiced law before me, and we’ve seen each other at various occasions throughout the years. And that was especially heartbreaking for me to see you go in the media from being a grieving father who lost a wife and a son, to being the person indicted and convicted of killing them.

You’ve engaged in such duplicitous conduct here in the courtroom, here on the witness stand and as established by the testimony throughout the time leading from the time of the indictment and prior to the indictment throughout the trial to this moment in time, certainly, you have no obligation to say anything other than saying ‘not guilty.’

And obviously, appeals are probably expected or absolutely expected.

I would not expect a confession of any kind. In fact, as I’ve presided over murder cases over the past 22 years, I have yet to find a defendant who could go there, who could go back to that moment in time when they decided to pull the trigger or to otherwise murder someone.

I have not been able to get anyone, any defendant, even those who have confessed to being guilty, to go back and explain to me what happened at that moment in time when they opted to pull the trigger. When they opted to commit the most heinous crimes known to man.

And this case qualifies under our death penalty statute. Based on the statutory aggravating circumstances of two or more people being murdered by the defendant, by one act or pursuant to one scheme or course of conduct, I don’t question at all the decision of the state not to pursue the death penalty.

But as I sit here in this courtroom and look around the many portraits of judges and other court officials and reflect on the fact that over the past century, your family, including you, have been prosecuting people here in this courtroom, and many have received the death penalty, probably for lesser conduct,” said Newman

Shortly after, Newman asked Murdaugh to remind him of an expression he used during his testimony just a week ago, and what it meant.

Murdaugh reminded the judge of this expression as “Oh, what tangled web we weave.” Murdaugh clarified and told the judge it mean when he lied, he continued to do so.

Newman proceeded with his statement by asking Murdaugh when will it end, referring to the lies.

“And it just ended already for the jury because they’ve concluded that you continue to lie and lie throughout your testimony and perhaps with all the throng of people here, they, for the most part, all believe, or 99% believe that you continued to lie now in your statement of denial to the court.

Perhaps you believe that it does not matter, that there’s nothing that can mitigate a sentence given the crimes that were committed. You know, a notice of alibi was filed in this case by counsel in November and we conducted a hearing, pretrial hearing, in which he claimed to have been someplace else at the time the crime was committed.

Then after all of the witnesses placed you at the scene of the crime at the last minute or last minutes or days, you switched courses and admitted to being there and then that necessitated more lies, and you continued to lie and I am saying, when will it end? It’s already ended for many who have heard you and concluded that it’ll never end.

But within your own soul, you have to deal with that, and 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,” Newman said.

Murdaugh admitted and said “All day and every night.”

Newman responded with “I am sure.”

“And they will continue to do so and reflect on the last time they looked to you in the eyes as you looked the jury in the eyes.

I don’t know a person who’s always been such a gregarious, friendly person and caused a life to be tangled in such a weaved web, in such a situation that you yourself spun into. And it’s so unfortunate because you have such a lovely family of such friendly people and including you.

And to go from that to this.

You know, your license to practice law has been stripped away from you. You turned from lawyer to witness, and now you have an opportunity to make your final appeal as an ex-lawyer.

And it’s almost, it’s really surprising that you are waiving this right at this time, and if you have to do something with that, it’s on you. You’re not compelled to say anything, but you have the opportunity to do so,” Newman said.

Murdaugh once again spoke into his defense and said “And I tell you again, I respect this court, but I’m innocent. I would never under any circumstances hurt my wife, Maggie, and I would never, under any circumstances hurt my son, Pawpaw.”

Newman responded “It might not have been you. It might have been the monster you 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 it’s the same individual. We’ll leave that at that,” Newman said.

The exchange ended with Newman saying the other pending charges will be handled at a later time.

After his sentencing, Murdaugh’s defense team held a post-sentencing conference where defense attorney Dick Harpootlian said Murdaugh’s team plans to file an appeal within 10 days.

Murdaugh is currently at the Kirkland Reception and Evaluation Center in Columbia, where he will be assessed before being assigned permanently to a maximum-security prison.

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