COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Prosecutors suggested Friday that convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh’s defense attorneys got some details wrong when they recently accused the court clerk of improperly influencing the jury.
Murdaugh was sentenced this March to life in prison for the June 2021 shooting deaths of his wife and youngest son. But in a Sept. 5 request for a new trial, his lawyers alleged that Colleton County Clerk of Court Rebecca Hill told jurors not to trust his testimony, pressured them to reach a quick verdict and held private conversations with the foreperson.
An ongoing state police investigation into alleged tampering during the widely watched double murder trial has already found unspecified “significant factual disputes” with the claims made last week, according to a Sept. 15 filing by the South Carolina Attorney General’s office.
In a response just four pages long, prosecutors sent the ball back to the other side. They want the defense to refile a motion that they say failed to include multiple details necessary to secure another trial.
Most consequentially, the state attorney general wrote that the motion did not mention when Murdaugh learned of evidence supporting the “serious claims” against the court clerk. To get another shot at defending their client, his lawyers must show they did not know of any such evidence during the trial, according to prosecutors.
The response does note, however, that defense attorneys have already shared some of those details with members of the media.
At a news conference last week, defense lawyer Jim Griffin said the team learned “immediately in the aftermath of the verdict” that they needed “to look into what happened in the jury room.”
Griffin also told “Good Morning America” co-anchor George Stephanopoulos that “as soon as the verdict was rendered,” they got “some indication from folks in the courtroom that there was something untoward that had happened in the jury room.”
The state asked Judge Clifton Newman to grant 10 days for their counterparts “to correct the procedural defect” and establish the timeline. If a potential evidentiary hearing turns up no credible proof, prosecutors plan to argue against the motion for a new trial.
Pollard is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.