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Trial judge Alex Murdaugh asks to withdraw from murder case

The South Carolina judge who oversaw the double murder trial of disgraced lawyer Alex Murdaugh has asked to be excluded from future proceedings in the high-profile case.

Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman, who harshly reprimanded Murdaugh as he handed down a life sentence in March for the 2021 murders of his wife and son, “requested that a new judge be designated to handle post-trial motions involving the murder charges,” according to an order filed Thursday by the chief justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court. The filing was first reported by FITSNews.com.

To learn more about the case, watch “The Murdaugh murders: at the heart of the investigation” on “Dateline” at 9 ET/8 CT Friday.

Newman, however, is still expected to preside over Murdaugh’s upcoming state trial on related financial crimes charges.

Murdaugh’s defense team is seeking to delay the Nov. 27 trial start date after requesting a change of venue given the widespread publicity surrounding the case. A hearing with Newman regarding pending motions in the lawsuit is scheduled for Friday morning in Beaufort County.

Disbarred attorney Alex Murdaugh arrives at court in Beaufort, South Carolina, September 14. James Pollard / AP File

Following the double murder trial, lawyers for Murdaugh, 55, filed a notice of appeal of his guilty verdict in the fatal shootings of Margaret, 52, and their youngest son, Paul, 22 years, at the family hunting lodge in rural Colleton County. .

In September, Murdaugh’s defense team filed a motion seeking a new trial, accusing Colleton County Court Clerk Rebecca Hill of jury tampering, including “pressuring him to quickly reaches a guilty verdict, even distorting critical and important information in court.” trial judge in her campaign to dismiss a juror she believed favored the defense.

In an affidavit filed last week by state prosecutors, Hill, whose job was to oversee the logistics of the trial, denied allegations of jury tampering.

As part of their appeal, defense attorneys had requested that Newman withdraw because he would potentially be a witness at any hearing involving the allegations against Hill. They also questioned Newman’s impartiality after he spoke publicly about the case after the trial, including an interview on NBC’s “TODAY” show.

“I can’t imagine him having a peaceful night knowing what he did,” Newman said of Murdaugh on “TODAY,” which was consistent with his comments during sentencing. “I’m sure if he had the chance to do it again, he never would.”

Neither defense attorneys 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 for the murders last year. Prosecutors said he killed them for mercy before being exposed for a series of financial crimes.

Murdaugh took the stand at his trial, admitted to repeatedly lying to investigators and said he was dishonest about his alibi the night of the murders because of his addiction to painkillers and general paranoia.

In September, he pleaded guilty in federal court to nearly two dozen counts of financial fraud and money laundering. As part of a plea agreement, his federal sentence is to run concurrently with any state sentence he may receive if he is convicted.

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