South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman reacted angrily Friday upon learning that an autopsy photo from the murder trial of Alex Murdaugh had been shared online.
Murdaugh, 54, was found guilty Thursday of murdering his wife, Maggie, and his son Paul in 2021. On Friday, he was sentenced to two life terms in prison with no hope of parole.
Newman said after the sentencing that an investigation was requested to determine who leaked the autopsy photo in the shooting deaths, according to WHNS-TV.
Newman said the image being distributed showed an autopsy photo when it was displayed in court on a digital screen.
“I have my hands full doing my job, and I don’t attempt to conduct any investigations beyond the conducting of a trial. But to the extent that law enforcement decides to review that, that’s the responsibility of law enforcement,” he said.
The photo was shown Tuesday during the testimony of Dr. Ellen Riemer, who conducted the autopsies on the victims.
According to the New York Post, the initial release of the photo came during a livestream by WGN News.
“Sick trolls then took screengrabs of it and started spreading it on internet message boards,” the Post wrote.
One photo being shared shows Maggie Murdaugh. An entry wound just below her left ear can be seen.
“During Tuesday’s hearing the pool camera reacted slowly during the presentation of certain photographic evidence, which was visible at a distance on-air for a few seconds,” a representative for WGN said in a statement, according to the Post. “The pool camera was not operated by WGN-TV, and we have since removed the video from our streaming platforms.”
Many on Twitter condemned sharing the image, regardless of how it initially was released.
Victims MATTER! Victims deserve privacy and dignity in life and death. It is inexcusable to share autopsy photos of Maggie & Paul Murdaugh. It’s disgusting and horrific and MUST be shut down. #murdaughtrial #victimsmatter
— Sarah A. Ford (@sarahafordesq) March 3, 2023
Autopsy photos from the Murdaugh trial were leaked? Jesus. So twisted. Regardless of how you feel about the victims/their families, the victims deserve the respect/privacy of not having those photos out and the families deserve to not have to see or be harassed with them.
— Brandi Rene (@NorthOfSass) March 3, 2023
Newman scolded whoever shared the photos.
“One of the reasons we sought to seal graphic photos, because the parties have a right to privacy, a right to those matters not being publicly disclosed,” the judge said, according to the Post.
“If anyone has heard about the recent settlement that … Kobe Bryant’s wife just made with Los Angeles County and others out there over certain disclosures of information involving the death of Kobe Bryant — liability can be substantial, and it’s a risk for the most part that’s not worth taking.”
“We will let everyone judge themselves accordingly within that regard,” Newman said.
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