Eric Bland recounts this past week’s events, including team Murdaugh’s newest motion and Mandy’s upcoming book tour dates and locations.
Happy Thursday Premium Members, my good friends. EB here given a briefer, hopefully, weekly recap than some of my long diatribes. The bombshell motion has been filed this week. Very little has happened but for this motion, but it is truly a bombshell motion that Team Murdaugh filed with the South Carolina Supreme Court. It’s called a writ of prohibition that they filed. It’s an archaic type of motion that you do not see filed frequently. Our Supreme Court is comprised of five individuals. Chief Justice Don Beatty is the current Chief Justice, Justice he’s going to retire shortly, I think either this year or next year, and Judge Kittredge at Greenville is going to be the next Chief Justice. Our Supreme Court is above the Court of Appeals. So usually a case goes from the trial court level, where the Murdaugh case was tried to the Court of Appeals, they render a decision and then the dissatisfied party then would appeal up to the South Carolina Supreme Court. Occasionally, though, the Supreme Court acts as a court of original jurisdiction, meaning they actually can hear a motion that’s made by a litigant before the appellate process plays itself out. And that’s exactly what has happened here. Team Murdaugh has filed a motion in the South Carolina Supreme Court asking the court to do two things. One, they want Judge Newman to be recused from hearing their motion for a new trial. And as you remember, last week, the Court of Appeals granted the stay of the appeal from the double murder conviction and said, you can go back to the trial court level and have your motion for a new trial based on juror interference by Clerk of Court Becky Hill to be heard by Judge Newman. Well, as I’ve been saying for two months, Team Murdaugh doesn’t want Judge Newman to preside over anything, let alone a traffic ticket case. Certainly not the motion for a new trial and certainly not a future trial that’s scheduled on November 27 in front of him, which is the state court financial crimes case against Alex Murdaugh. So they did two things in the Supreme Court. One, they did a writ of prohibition, which is asking the Supreme Court to rule on their motions, possibly have oral arguments on why Judge Newman is conflicted from hearing not only the motion for a new trial, but if a new trial is granted, presumably not to hear the the second murder case, but also that the November 27 scheduled criminal trial against Murdaugh in which Judge Newman is to preside over the state court charges, that that be stayed and continue. Now, this is an extremely serious motion. It’s a career killing motion. Lawyers think long and hard, whether you ever want to make a motion to a judge to have that judge recused themselves. And that recused means to step aside, let somebody else hear. And the reason is because it’s a discretionary motion, meaning the judge can make a decision “No, I don’t have a conflict and I am going to go forward and hear the matter.” Well, if you take a shot at the king, you better kill him. Basically, you’re accusing the judge of being unethical if he continues, or she continues to preside over the case, because you’re alleging that the judge has a conflict. In their motion they said two reasons that Judge Newman has a conflict. One, he witnessed, supposedly, the interactions that Becky Hill had with the jury, which formed the basis of the jury interference issue. But two, more importantly, he said the Judge Newman is predisposed and prejudicial towards Alex Murdaugh because of the statements that he said at the sentencing hearing after the jury convicted him of double murder, at Cleveland State University when he spoke after the jury verdict, and to the South Carolina bar, and also to the Today Show, when he was interviewed. So let’s kind of piece that and pull it apart. So is Judge Newman a witness, a material witness to what Becky Hill allegedly did with the jury? The answer is of course he is. Is he a material witness? No. He’s a witness, a judge always witnesses things that happen in a courtroom. And so the fact that you’re going to call a judge as a witness is something that is problematic. Now, what they’re going to say is “we want to question you, Judge Newman, about when you interviewed jurors in your chambers for the purpose of determining whether they were going to stay on the jury or not, specifically the egg lady.” So there is a transcript of that. So they don’t need to have judge Newman as a witness on that. The second reason is, they say Judge Newman is prejudiced to Alex Murdaugh because of the things that he said at the sentencing hearing. You remember, he said that, you know, he found what he did to be repugnant, and that Maggie and Paul are going to visit him in his jail cell every night. But it’s not going to be in the way he thinks, they’re going to be there to torment him for what he did. Listen, judges have opinions. They’re entitled to have their opinions. What they’re not entitled to do is let them let those opinions infect how they preside over proceeding. Look, every time a jury finds somebody’s guilty or a person pleads guilty to criminal charges the judges say very similar things to what Judge Newman said about why he is sentencing Alex Murdaugh to consecutive life sentences. It’s done all the time. And that doesn’t preclude them from entertaining post trial motions, or if the appellate court were to order a new trial. So from my standpoint, it’s an incredibly risky, risky motion to make. They basically have no choice. They do not want to go forward with the November trial on November 27 for Gloria Satterfield because they’re gonna get convicted. He’s already pled guilty to those crimes in federal court. The second thing is, though,is it probable that the appellate court is going to stain Judge Newman like that? Remember, he’s supposed to retire in December. So his last act could be remembered for an appellate court, a Supreme Court, after they put him on the case to preside over all the Murdaugh matters, that his last act is “we do not want you to preside over it because we think you have a conflict” and the standard is does Judge Newman’s presiding over the Murdaugh matters create the appearance of impropriety. Now, that’s what Harpootlian and Griffin have said in their motion and Phil Barber. They say that it would be improper, that he’s prejudicial. Judges are entitled to voice their opinions. They’re not entitled to do that, though, in a way that it would be prejudicial to the administration of justice or to Alex Murdaugh. So like I said, when you take a shot at the king, you better hit. Now. I sent in a tweet earlier, yesterday or today, I said, you know, other judges are not going to be take this kindly to taking a shot at Judge Newman, a venerable judge like Judge Newman. And what I meant is that judges often extend courtesies to lawyers, if Harpootlian or Griffin or Phil Barber needed a continuance or wanted something rescheduled, judges accommodate. They do that as a matter of course, not so sure they’re going to do that in the future regarding Harpootlian and Barber and Jim Griffin, because now they know that Harpootlian will take a headshot at a judge on behalf of Alex Murdaugh, the scum of the scum. Harpootlian is willing to take a headshot at somebody like Judge Newman. Now don’t get me wrong. This is a very serious motion. And I take it seriously, I think it’s significant. Even the scum of the scum like Alex is entitled to have a judge who presides over him be fair and impartial. So I am an advocate that a judge be fair and impartial. Do I think that Judge Newman is unfair and impartial? I totally disagree on that. I think that Judge Newman has been a fair judge, I think he gave a full and fair opportunity to defer to the defense to present their case. Look, it’s the defense that made a couple of fatal mistakes of bringing in the labor day shooting, bringing in some of the other drug issues. So a lot of what they complain about is because they were hoisted on their own petard for starting to discuss those matters in the trial. But this is a very serious motion, we’re going to have to wait and see if the court decides that it is going to entertain this motion, and whether they’re going to grant oral arguments, or they’re going to tell the attorney general to respond in writing. They filed almost 200 pages in support of their contention that Judge Newman is conflicted and that he is not impartial, and that he should be removed from the case. Now, let me explain some to you. 99 times out of 100, the motion needs to be made in front of the judge himself. Now they said they sent a letter to the judge. And they, it seems to indicate they didn’t get a response. The proper course of action is to file a motion and ask the judge, you want him to be recused. The other side then has an opportunity to respond. And then there’s the hearing, and Judge Newman will have the opportunity to list specifically why he is or is not conflicted, and why he should or should not stay on the case. But they didn’t do that. Remember, they’ve done a lot of judge and a lot of courtroom shopping over the past couple of weeks. Last week, Judge Gergel slam them shut when they went to the federal court and tried to have the federal court commandeer all the money that was supposed to go to the victims that was recovered by the receivers. So this is a serious motion, just like the motion for a new trial is with serious motion. And we’re going to have to wait and see whether they will be granted, what type of hearings they’re going to have, what type of evidence is going to be introduced. But I’m telling you, if they do not hit the mark, and if the Supreme Court decides that they’re going to hear it, and they don’t disqualify Judge Newman. Boy, could that end up being a problem for Alex Murdaugh. And if we get to the point where Judge Newman hears the motion on a new trial, and a new trial isn’t granted, either by Judge Newman or by another judge, that is another big problem for Alex Murdaugh. So as they say in poker, Team Murdaugh’s all in. I think it’s suicidal. But at this point, you know, obviously Poot hates to lose, and he’s doing anything and everything he can within his quiver to shoot any arrow that he has, on behalf of Alex Murdaugh. So that is what happened this week. I don’t think all this is going to be resolved by November 27. So if I was a betting man, I’m not sure that the Satterfield criminal trial is going to go forward. Now, don’t forget, on the week of the 27th, we have our Plyler case, the civil case against Russell Laffitte going forward. But the defendants in that case have already said that they’re not going to be able to transfer Russell Laffitte, they think, from where he is in Florida back here in state court in time for his trial, so we’ll have to wait and see. So that’s essentially what we got this week. We had Halloween this week. It was a lot of fun. Loved everybody sending photos of, you know, the outfits that their kids were wearing or they wore and what they had their puppies of justice wear. We got Mandy’s book tour events. November 6 she’s at TalkShopLive, and that will be signed books for sale. November 13 at University of South Carolina, it’s limited seating, hopefully to broadcast to the premium members. November 14 they’ll be at Hilton Head at Barnes and Noble. Another book signing November 16 at Corner Perk Happy Hour and broadcast to Premium members and a book signing. So it’s pretty exciting what is going on. We’re going to have a True Sunlight Episode # 23 this week. We’ve also released a Cup of Justice 53 this week. Mandy is going to be on Katie Fang on MSNBC. Mandy is also going to be on the Canadian CBC Crime Story. And Mandy is going to be on Australian True Crime conversations. So that’s the weekly recap. Thanks for listening. EB out.
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