Skip to main content

Alex Murdaugh’s trial judge calls out defense lawyer for tweet criticizing ‘sloppy’ law enforcement investigation and compares him to Kyrie Irving

Judge Clifton Newman criticizes Jim Griffin for tweeting

Judge Clifton Newman, on the right, criticizes Jim Griffin, on the left, during a hearing on Feb. 21, 2023, for tweeting about the Alex Murdaugh murder case.

The judge overseeing the Alex Murdaugh murder trial excoriated one of the defense attorneys on Tuesday morning for retweeting an article critical of law enforcement’s investigation into the double murders at the famed hunting lodge in South Carolina’s Lowcountry region.

On Feb. 18, attorney Jim Griffin retweeted a Washington Post op-ed entitled “Alex Murdaugh trial reveals a sloppy investigation.” The tweet was also captioned with the article’s title, which appeared to show Griffin himself calling the investigation into the murders of Margaret “Maggie” Murdaugh, 52, and Paul Murdaugh, 22, “sloppy.”

On Tuesday morning, before jurors filed into the courtroom, Judge Clifton Newman took a few minutes to address the tweet and express his dissatisfaction with the defense attorney’s Twitter usage.

SEE ALSO: Buster Murdaugh takes the stand during day 19 of Alex Murdaugh double murder trial

“I’ve been receiving, over the past two to three days, emails concerning a social media post by Mr. Griffin commenting upon witness’ testimony and the quality of the investigation by the state,” the judge said.

“And it appeared on my Twitter feed this morning,” Newman continued. “Mr. Griffin, is this part of your defense strategy? Or…”

Griffin appeared to nervously chuckle in response.

“Your honor, all I did was retweet an article that was published in the Washington Post,” he said. “I didn’t put any comment. I didn’t make any statement. I just retweeted the article that’s in the newspaper. That’s all I did.”

Newman then referenced a prior incident where oft-traded NBA point guard Kyrie Irving, who currently plays for the Dallas Mavericks, “retweeted an article that resulted in him being suspended from the NBA for about 10 days and cost him about $10 million in salary.”

In November 2022, Irving’s then-team, the Brooklyn Nets, suspended him for the ensuing controversy that erupted after he promoted an antisemitic conspiracy theory documentary on Twitter.

The judge used that example to note that retweeting is, “to some,” as if a person tweeted something personally.

“It appeared,” Newman said, gesturing with his hands before switching to a different thought.

“Well, I mean, I’m not a Twitter friend of yours,” the judge said to peals of laughter from the courtroom. “It just appeared on my – under Twitter. First thing up this morning was you.”

Newman then brought up another kerfuffle when a person with the same name as a witness in the case was tweeting – apparently leading to some confusion.

“In your instance, it’s your name and your picture,” the judge said.

To which Griffin replied: “Well, I did retweet the article, no question about it.”

SEE ALSO: ‘No Objection At All’: Judge in Alex Murdaugh Murder Trial Scolds Defense Attorneys for ‘Totally Inappropriate’ Complaint

Newman went on to say that he had reviewed one of the ethical rules for attorneys in the Palmetto State.

“The rule does not specifically state that lawyers are prohibited from criticizing witnesses during the course of the trial or commenting on a case that they are actively participating in,” the judge admitted. “I think it goes against the spirit of the law – of the rule.”

The judge continued to inveigh against social media posts by attorneys in the case.

“And it doesn’t pass the feel test,” he said, “So, you should not post, or repost, anything that would give me, or the general public – or hopefully never land in the hand of a juror. The jurors were instructed not to discuss the case, and obviously that did not extend to the lawyers, but it’s not a good practice. And it could easily lead to modification of our rules that might specifically address something like that. So, I’ll leave it at that.”

Griffin took the lashing in stride and vowed he would not “retweet anything or tweet anything” until the trial is over.

Join the discussion 

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime: