COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (Court TV) —Prosecutors responded to Alex Murdaugh‘s request for a new trial in a motion, saying that the convicted killer’s allegations “do not even begin to make sense.”
Murdaugh was sentenced to serve two life sentences for the murders of his wife, Maggie, and son, Paul, at their Lowcountry home on June 7, 2021. Murdaugh, once a prominent attorney, has filed an appeal of the jury’s guilty verdict in which he has accused the Clerk of Court of improper behavior and jury tampering.
In their motion for a new trial, Murdaugh’s attorneys said that Colleton County Clerk of Court Mary Rebecca “Becky” Hill told jurors not to be “misled” by evidence and not to be “fooled by” Murdaugh’s testimony in his own defense.
In an affidavit attached to the state’s response to the motion, Hill denies ever making any comments to the jurors. The State pointed out in its motion that the same things that Hill is accused of saying to the jurors are things that prosecutors said in arguments before the jury during the trial: “You’re going to hear how things progressed about what he says, and what he says he did that night. Watch those closely. Watch his expressions. Listen to what he’s saying. Listen to what he’s not saying.” “Everyone who thought they knew who he was — who he was, he’s fooled them all. And he fooled Maggie and Paul, too, and they paid for it with their lives. Don’t let him fool you, too.”
Signed statements from ten jurors are attached to the motion, saying that they did not hear Hill make any comments and that no outside factors influenced them during their deliberations.
Murdaugh’s attorneys pointed to the removal of Juror 785, who famously requested their dozen eggs from the jury room before leaving the court, as evidence of Hill’s interference with the jury, suggesting that she fabricated a Facebook post that was then used to push her out of the panel. But prosecutors said that the juror’s ex-spouse’s Facebook post was immaterial to their removal. “Indeed, the machinations alleged do not even begin to make sense… Only Alex Murdaugh could conceive of such a confounded gambit as even remotely plausible, and he is projecting his own calculating manipulative psyche onto a dedicated public servant in an effort to save himself.”
According to prosecutors, Juror 785 was removed from the case after sworn affidavits from three other people revealed that they had discussed the case with their tenants. The juror, a landlord, had been delivering a refrigerator to their tenants when one brought up the case.
“Male Tenant recalled that Juror 785 ‘stated that she didn’t believe there was any evidence to make her think the Defendant was guilty at that time,’ Male Tenant expressed that took her to mean she had not made up her mind.”
Similarly, a female tenant told investigators that “Juror 785 said ‘[t]hat she could not without, you know, a doubt or whatever say he was guilty.'”
When the judge questioned Juror 785 about the incident, they specifically denied having any inappropriate contact with Hill:
“THE COURT: So, has she [Clerk Hill] discussed the case with any of — any of the jurors? Has the clerk discussed anything about the case with anyone on that jury?
JUROR: Not that I’m aware of.”
Another juror told Murdaugh’s attorneys that they voted to convict Murdaugh because they felt “pressured by the other jurors,” but the State argues in its response that feeling pressure is not a valid basis to impeach a verdict.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) investigated Murdaugh’s attorney’s claims of jury tampering, and told prosecutors that “none of the jurors who willingly interviewed with SLED reported feeling any pressure or influence to reach their verdict.” The report notes that two jurors claimed they were warned by Murdaugh’s attorney, Dick Harpootlian, that if they didn’t talk they would be issued a subpoena.
On Oct. 17, The South Carolina Court of Appeals granted Murdaugh’s motion to suspend his murder convictions and remanded the case back to the circuit court for a hearing regarding the allegations made in his motion for a new trial. Murdaugh’s attorneys have asked for Judge Clifton Newman, who presided over the original case, to be removed from all further hearings and cases involving their client.