Colleton Co. Clerk of Court denies Murdaugh jury tampering in affidavit
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The South Carolina Attorney General’s Office is asking the court to deny Alex Murdaugh’s request for a new trial prompted by allegations of jury tampering on the part of the clerk of court.
The state filed the motion arguing that a dismissed juror had no bearing on the trial’s outcome because they were dismissed before deliberations and after several on-camera hearings.
A jury convicted Murdaugh in March in the June 7, 2021, killings of his wife, Maggie Murdaugh, and their son, Paul Murdaugh.
Murdaugh’s attorneys filed for a new trial alleging Colleton County Clerk of Court Rebecca Hill tampered with the jury by entering the jury room and telling them to not listen to the defense.
The defense also alleges Hill and the jury foreperson had private conversations.
The South Carolina Court of Appeals on Oct. 17 granted the defense’s motion to suspend the appeal of Murdaugh’s conviction to allow him to seek a new trial.
The state argues that affidavits from Attorney Dick Harpootlian’s paralegal of statements by two jurors should not be admitted as evidence based on hearsay.
Harpootlian and defense attorney Jim Griffin have based their motion for a new hearing on allegations that Hill made up a Facebook post to have a juror removed.
“Under Murdaugh’s theory, Clerk Hill heard the Court had received an e-mail which implicated a specific juror, then in immediate response on the fly reported a fictitious Facebook post to implicate that same juror,” court documents state.
The state argues that regardless of the validity or existence of the Facebook post it had no bearing on the decision by the court to remove the juror.
SPECIAL SECTION: THE MURDAUGH CASES
Court documents state the juror was removed after an on-camera interview where they admitted to discussing the case while delivering a refrigerator to their tenants.
In the wake of the defense alleging jury tampering the attorney general asked the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division to investigate those claims.
SLED agents conducted interviews with 10 jurors who stated that beyond telling the jurors to pay attention or watch body language Hill made no remarks on evidence.
The state argues that the juror interviewed by the defense was likely remembering arguments that the state made regarding the importance of body language and not being fooled.
In an affidavit signed by Hill, she denies the allegations made by the defense.
Hill states that any conversations she had with the jury foreperson were had in the jury hallway within earshot of the bailiff and were not about any parts of the trial.
She also denies handing out cards of media members to the jury or denying members of the jury a smoke break during deliberations.
While the state has requested that Murdaugh’s motion for a new trial be denied they go on to say that any evidentiary hearings should be looked at through the lens of State v. Green which would require the defense to prove that a juror’s guilty verdict was influenced by outside communication.
The defense filed a motion Wednesday to have Judge Clifton Newman removed from all future trials and hearings.
Newman was appointed to preside over all cases involving Murdaugh. It was Newman who presided over the murder trial in which Murdaugh was accused of the June 2021 killings of his wife, Maggie; and their son, Paul, at the family’s rural hunting property in Colleton County.
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