Mableton, GA asked in Criminal Law for Georgia

Q: My question relates to a ruling from the court. I went to Twitter first. Unmitigated disaster.

Recently in the Alex Murdaugh trial Judge Newman objected sua sponte to a leading question by defense counsel. I’ve seen judges do this with Pro Se litigants before but never for the state.

To my non-lawyer brain this seemed highly objectionable. Did this violate judicial ethics and the due process rights of the accused?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Glenn T. Stern
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  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Atlanta, GA
  • Licensed in Georgia

A: Judges have broad discretion in the way they run their courtroom and in trying cases. I didn't see the specific example you gave, but it is not uncommon for judges to summarily shut down a question (or line of questions) without first hearing an objection from the other side. Judges are not supposed to "prosecute from the bench," but a judge recognizing an improper question and telling counsel to move on or rephrase does not in itself rise to a level that would violate judicial ethics and/or due process rights. Remember--both the defense AND the state have a right to a fair trial.

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