South Carolina circuit court judge Clifton Newman is ready to schedule the next round of criminal trials tied to the ‘Murdaugh Murders’ crime and corruption saga – and is pushing prosecutors in the office of S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson to start moving these cases. In fact, the veteran judge is said to have raised scheduling concerns with assistant attorney general John Meadors following a bond hearing this week in Richland County, sources familiar with the conversation told this news outlet.
Newman presided over the double homicide trial of convicted killer Alex Murdaugh earlier this year – winning near-universal acclaim for his adept and even-keeled handling of the Palmetto State’s ‘Trial of the Century.’ The soft-spoken 71-year-old from Kingstree, S.C. – whose daughter is also a circuit court judge – was tapped by S.C. chief justice Donald Beatty back in September 2021 with handling all Murdaugh-related court cases.
He has shone in that role ever since, singlehandedly restoring some of the faith South Carolinians have lost in their notoriously uneven “justice” system.
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Murdaugh, 54, was found guilty by a Colleton County grand jury on March 2, 2023 of killing his wife, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh, and younger son, 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh, on June 7, 2021 at Moselle – the family’s hunting property. Judge Newman sentenced him to life in prison the following day.
In the immediate aftermath of the double homicide trial – which readers will recall was one dismissed juror away from a vastly different outcome – prosecutors indicated their next priority would be the pursuit of financial crimes tied to the 2018 death of Murdaugh family housekeeper Gloria Satterfield.
Satterfield collapsed on the front steps of the main house on the Moselle property shortly before 9:24 a.m. EST on the morning of Friday, February 2, 2018. She died three weeks later. Alex Murdaugh convinced insurance investigators Satterfield was tripped by the family’s dogs – thus allowing him to fraudulently steer a multi-million dollar insurance settlement away from its intended recipients and into his own pockets.
Murdaugh is facing twelve (12) criminal counts related to this alleged scheme including breach of trust, money laundering, computer crimes and obtaining property by false pretenses. His alleged collaborator in the scheme – attorney Cory Fleming of Beaufort, S.C. – is facing eighteen (18) similar criminal counts related to the scheme.
Both Murdaugh and Fleming are also facing a separate criminal conspiracy charge.
Murdaugh is currently facing 99 individual charges related to “schemes to defraud victims” of nearly $10 million. He is also staring down drug charges and fraud charges tied to a bizarre roadside shooting incident from Labor Day 2021.
Not only that, more charges could be forthcoming. As this news outlet reported last month, a statewide grand jury is continuing to investigate what remains of the Murdaugh empire – which ran the South Carolina Lowcountry like its own fiefdom for more than a century.
During that time, the Hampton, S.C.-based “House of Murdaugh” enjoyed near-dictatorial power over a five-county region in the southernmost tip of South Carolina. Three generations of Murdaughs – including Alex’s late father, Randolph Murdaugh III – held the post of S.C. fourteenth circuit solicitor between 1920-2006. Murdaugh himself was a badge-carrying assistant solicitor.
Given the sheer number of known allegations – and the likelihood additional charges will be filed against other defendants tied to this saga – judge Newman’s sense of urgency is understandable. Unfortunately, as of the beginning of this week, no court dates had been set for any of the remaining Murdaugh-related cases according to Wilson spokesman Robert Kittle.
Let’s hope that changes soon …
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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