South Carolina judge Clifton Newman delivered a sentence of two consecutive life sentences to Alex Murdaugh for the murders of his wife and son.
Just moments before the sentencing, Judge Newman addressed the defendant and noted that Murdaugh’s family, including him, had prosecuted people in his courtroom, and some had received the death penalty, probably for lesser offenses.
Despite the decision of the state not to pursue the death penalty, Judge Newman spoke in resonant tones, delivering his verdict to Murdaugh, a familiar face in the tight-knit legal community of South Carolina.
During the six weeks of the trial, Judge Newman remained calm and steady, his expressions revealing little about his impressions of the parade of witnesses and evidence before him.
Even when he gently chastised the defense attorney for re-tweeting an article that was critical of the prosecution, Judge Newman maintained his composure.
Legal experts agreed that the decision not to seek the death penalty was appropriate, as the case lacked any direct evidence to support it.
Despite this, some noted a clear racial disparity in South Carolina’s justice system. Of the 284 executions carried out by the state since 1912, 75 were white and 209 were black, raising questions about why people of color and those with fewer resources who had committed crimes arguably not as heinous as Murdaugh’s faced the death penalty while he did not.
Finally, Judge Newman made clear his own judgment of Murdaugh, noting his own heartbreak at seeing him change from a grieving father to a convicted killer. Murdaugh replied, noting that he saw his wife and son “all day and every night.”