WALTERBORO, South Carolina (AP) — The judge who sentenced Alex Murdo on Friday to life in prison for the murder of his wife and son has earned attention and applause for his impartial conduct throughout the trial and for convicting the once-famous lawyer shortly before how he sent him to jail.
Judge Clifton Newman, a South Carolina native who attended racially segregated schools in the 1950s and 1960s, addressed Murdo directly for about 20 minutes of comments that ranged from reminiscing about the murdered son of the defendant Paul and his wife Maggie to lamenting to what he called attacks. on confidence in the public justice system during trial.
He noted that Murdo came from a prominent family of lawyers in the area and that a portrait of his grandfather, a former prosecutor, once hung in the courthouse where he was tried until Newman removed it to promote a fair trial.
One of the most poignant moments was Newman’s conversation with Murdo about his wife and son. Referring to the shooting and the lies that Murdo admitted throughout the investigation, the judge said: “In your soul, you have to deal with this. And I know you need to see Paul and Maggie at night when you’re trying to sleep and I’m sure they come and visit you.
“All day and every night,” said Murdo, who maintained his innocence at the time of sentencing.
“And they will continue to do this and reflect on the last time they looked you in the eye,” the judge replied.
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The judge also noted that the case was “an assault on the integrity of the judiciary in our state,” referring to the prominent position the Murdo family has held as longtime prosecutors in the area, as well as the defense team’s efforts to challenge the methods of the investigation. throughout the entire trial.
“As a member of the legal community — and a well-known member of the legal community — you practiced law before me, and we have seen each other on various occasions over the years,” he said.
Newman’s 40-year-old son, Brian, died just weeks before Murdo’s trial forced Newman to leave his home for more than a month. In sentencing Murdo for the murder of his own son, he added a little extra touch.
“For the murder of Paul Murdo, whom you probably loved so much, I sentence you to prison for his murder for the rest of your natural life,” Newman said.
Here’s what you need to know about Judge Clifton Newman
Newman was born in 1951 in rural Williamsburg County, South Carolina, and grew up there attending racially segregated schools, The Post and Courier told The Post and Courier in a judge profile last year.
Newman was the first person in his family to be born in a hospital. When he was 3, his mother moved to New York to take a job as a domestic worker for a Columbia University professor, leaving him in the care of his grandparents and aunt.
Newman graduated from high school as a valedictorian in his class in 1969, a year before his local school district desegregated. In high school, he played the part of a New York City lawyer in a play based on the landmark 1954 US Supreme Court case on school desegregation, an experience that helped establish a career in law.
“Coming from a rural community, a farming community, and moving from that scenario to being a lawyer was very inspiring,” Newman told the American Bar Association in 2017.
After earning a bachelor’s degree from Cleveland State University and graduating from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, Newman began practicing law in Cleveland. He returned to South Carolina in 1982 and began private law practice.
Newman served as a defense attorney, civil lawyer, and prosecutor until 2000, when the state General Assembly elected him as a district court judge.
“I ran the full spectrum of all aspects of the law,” Newman told the ABA.
Newman was assigned to the 2016 trial of Michael Slager, the former white police officer who fatally shot Walter Scott, an unarmed black man, in the back after a traffic stop.
In 2021, Newman was assigned by the Chief Justice of South Carolina to handle criminal cases related to Murdo.
This article originally appeared in Greenville News: Judge Alex Murdo, Clifton Newman’s legal story set in South Carolina.