Murdaughs

Murdaugh Saga: Judge Clifton Newman Asked To Be Taken Off ‘Trial Of The Century’

Unpublished chapter from Becky Hill’s book raises questions …

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Less than three weeks before the start of South Carolina’s ‘Trial of the Century’ – the double homicide trial of prominent Palmetto State attorney Alex Murdaugh – circuit court judge Clifton Newman and his family sustained an unspeakable loss. The untimely death of Newman’s son, 40-year-old Brian Newman, shook the family to its core and prompted speculation as to whether the judge would be able to preside over the trial.

Despite the devastating loss, Newman persevered. Not only that, he defined judicial integrity with his handling of the high-profile case – garnering well-deserved accolades for the even-keeled, high-minded manner in which he conducted the proceedings.

The Murdaugh trial – which ran from January 23 through March 3, 2023 –ended with the 55-year-old fortunate son from Hampton, S.C. being found guilty of the murders of his wife, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh, and younger son, 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh, on the family’s hunting property on the evening of June 7, 2021.

The trial was a media sensation given the gruesomeness of the crime – as well as the defendant’s status as a member of the once-powerful “House of Murdaugh,” a legal dynasty which ran the Palmetto Lowcountry like a fiefdom for nearly a century. Three Murdaughs held the post of S.C. fourteenth circuit solicitor between 1920-2006 – and Murdaugh himself was a badge-carrying assistant solicitor at the time of the murders.

The maze of associated criminality – and the web of lies spun to sustain it – also enraptured audiences.

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Since the trial, the drama has only escalated. On November 16, 2023, it was announced Newman had voluntarily recused himself from hearing further motions tied to the case. The judge stood down given his status as a potential fact witness to jury tampering allegations leveled by Murdaugh’s attorneys against embattled Colleton County clerk of court Becky Hill, whose office administered the trial. Newman’s recusal paved the way for the appointment of former S.C. chief justice Jean Toal to oversee an evidentiary hearing into the jury tampering claims.

Did Newman want off the case earlier, though?

Before the trial itself, even?

According to an early, unpublished draft chaper of Hill’s book – Behind the Doors of Justice – Newman asked to be taken off the case following his son’s untimely passing, a request Hill claimed was denied by S.C. chief justice Donald Beatty.

The draft chapter of Hill’s book is one of many email attachments obtained by this media outlet through the S.C. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). It was obtained subsequent to our recent release of thousands of emails obtained under FOIA from Colleton County.

The chapters were attached to an email sent by Hill’s co-author, Neil Gordon, on April 8, 2023.

Here is the relevant excerpt …

“I learned later from a retired, South Carolina Judge that Judge Newman was so devastated from his son’s sudden death, he petitioned Chief Justice Beatty to select a different judge for Murdaugh’s double-murder trial.

I wish I was a fly on the wall of that conversation to see the hearts of two great men discussing what was right for Judge Newman, those affected in the Murdaugh trial and those watching around the world.

In the end, Chief Justice Beatty denied Judge Newman’s request to be recused. He did not want to choose a different judge at that critical point. He wanted Judge Newman and knew he could compartmentalize his emotions.

As the same retired judge told me—the six week trial probably helped Judge Newman take his mind off of his own tragedy.”

Early draft of ‘Behind the Doors of Justice’ by Colleton County clerk of court Becky Hill

Hill’s unpublished draft recounted her attendance at Brian Newman’s funeral in Columbia, S.C., where she watched “a frail Judge Newman clinging to his wife” during the service.

“The judge is a tall man, but (he) looked very puny?” the draft continued. “It was heartbreaking to see how his son’s death affected him.”

Hill noted that for the next two weeks Newman “shut off all communication,” prompting her to worry “whether the trial would go on.”

After two weeks of no contact, Hill said she finally heard from Newman on the eve of jury selection – January 22, 2023.

“I never knew what he endured over those several weeks of grieving, because he never talked about the tragedy,” Hill wrote. “He is a very private man, but we did call each other on cellphone in between jury selection and the trial and a bit during the trial.”

The portions of the chapter referring to Newman’s alleged request that he be taken off the case clearly did not make it into Hill’s book – which has since been pulled from the shelves after she admitted plagiarizing portions of it. Also, there is no record of any formal request being made by Newman to Beatty regarding his replacement as Murdaugh’s trial judge.

The Murdaugh jury tampering hearing scheduled to begin on Monday, January 29, 2024 will get off to an earlier-than-expected start after one of the jurors had a scheduling conflict. That juror – who is represented by attorney Eric Bland – will appear before justice Toal at the Richland County courthouse this Friday (January 26, 2024) at 9:30 a.m. EDT.

Count on our media outlet to be in attendance at that hearing …

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THE DRAFT CHAPTER …

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Jenn Wood (Provided)

Jenn Wood is FITSNews’ incomparable research director. She’s also the producer of the FITSFiles and Cheer Incorporated podcasts and leading expert on all things Murdaugh/ South Carolina justice. A former private investigator with a criminal justice degree, evildoers beware, Jenn Wood is far from your average journalist! A deep dive researcher with a passion for truth and a heart for victims, this mom of two is pretty much a superhero in FITSNews country. Did we mention she’s married to a rocket scientist? (Lucky guy!) Got a story idea or a tip for Jenn? Email her at jenn@fitsnews.com.

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3 comments

SubZeroIQ January 24, 2024 at 6:03 pm

I watched Brian DeQuincy Newman’s funeral on the internet because I could have been prosecuted for contempt of court if I had done what comes naturally to my decent upbringing: offer my condolences in person.
I regret to say that I would have had only a prayer of forgiveness for Brian Newman had I gone to his funeral. He sat on Columbia’s City Council after I had been once more falsely arrested as if I were an animal and had my wrists bruised in the process. That 8 July 2010 false arrest of myself on two more false criminal charges (of which I was, thank God, later exonerated) was to pressure me to plead guilty to ANOTHER SET of two false criminal charges against which I had represented myself WITHOUT A LAWYER and with none other than Judge Clifton Newman presiding. Thank God, the jury refused to convict me after six hours of deliberations into the late evening of Friday, 26 February 2010, requiring Judge Newman to declare a mistrial.
Immediately thereafter, I gathered OBEJCTIVE EVIDENCE that 365 perjuries, forgeries, fabrications and subornation of perjury were used against me in that trial. TO THIS DAY, all concerned refuse to look at my evidence. And to deter my pursuit of a speedy retrial or dismissal (which, thank God was ordered by another judge 30 months later), the same prosecutor who had caused my first set of false charges kept hurling more false criminal charges at me.
To City Council, I took photos of my bruised wrists due to the brutality and corruption of Columbia’s Police Department (“CPD”); and I specifically directed a reference to my trial on the first set of false criminal charges to Councilor Newman.
He responded with a political nod of his head and a glassy indifferent look in his eyes, as if I were an animal talking to him.
Sorry, both judges Newman! If I had reason to be grateful to the late Brian Newman, I would have been effusive about it.
But the only way you can honor the memory of a flawed son and brother is to remedy his sin of omission by doing what he failed to do: investigate those who bring false criminal charges against the innocent for the financial gain of the false accusers.
History is like Karma. You know what they say the latter is.

Reply
Rebecca Shields Top fan January 25, 2024 at 9:23 am

Why do you have to publish this about Judge Newman? It makes no difference now at all. Fits just can’t help itself to try to be first. This was a sad and private time for Judge Newman and you should have respected him enough to give him his space.

Reply
Melissa Martin Top fan January 25, 2024 at 1:40 pm

That is what Judge Newman was asking for and Justice Beatty denied him that space. Beatty made this reportable news not Newman. FITSNEWS is reporting in a completely legitimate manner.

Reply

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