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Alex Murdaugh Gets First Win in Request for Murder Case Retrial Over Alleged Jury Tampering
“We intend to proceed expeditiously and will seek a full blown evidentiary hearing,” Alex Murdaugh’s lawyers, Jim Griffin and Dick Harpootlian, wrote in a statement.
A South Carolina appeals court has granted Alex Murdaugh the ability to ask a trial judge to dismiss his murder convictions and life sentence in exchange for a retrial on the grounds of alleged jury tampering.
On Tuesday, the South Carolina Court of Appeals granted Murdaugh's petition to request a new murder trial from a lower court over accusations that a court clerk influenced the jury in the high-profile trial over the murders of the disgraced legal scion’s wife and son, the Associated Press reported.
Why is Alex Murdaugh requesting a new murder trial?
Murdaugh’s lawyers had previously accused Colleton County Clerk of Court Rebecca Hill of sowing mistrust of Murdaugh amongst jurors, forcing jurors to come to a verdict quickly, and having private exchanges with the jury foreperson.
"After careful consideration, we grant Appellant's motion," the court’s decision said, Fox News reported.
It’s unclear if the petition will produce a full-fledged trial hearing, which with it, could bring possible testimony from Hill, as well as jurors, and Judge Clifton Newman, who presided over the case. Newman is expected to rule on the case at a later date.
In September, Murdaugh’s lawyers accused Hill of pressuring the jury and the case’s foreperson during the course of the six-week trial.
“She asked jurors about their opinions about Mr. Murdaugh’s guilt or innocence,” defense attorneys Jim Griffin and Dick Harpootlian said in court filings. “She instructed them not to believe evidence presented in Mr. Murdaugh’s defense, including his own testimony. She lied to the judge to remove a juror she believed might not vote guilty. And she pressured jurors to reach a guilty verdict quickly so she could profit from it.”
Alex Murdaugh's Lawyers Say Rebecca Hill Benefited From Murder Trial
Muurdaugh’s attorneys allege Hill influenced jurors in order to gain fame through media interviews and a book deal. Earlier this year, Hill released her self-published memoir, Behind the Doors of Justice: The Murdaugh Murders. Hill was also interviewed in Fox Nation's documentary series The Fall of the House of Murdaugh.
"Ms. Hill did these things to secure for herself a book deal and media appearances that would not happen in the event of a mistrial," Griffin and Harpootlian added in last month’s petition. "Ms. Hill betrayed her oath of office for money and fame."
In a sworn statement, one juror described feeling pressure to find Murdaugh guilty and also accused Hill of pushing jurors to speak with reporters she’d become chummy with.
“I had questions about Mr. Murdaugh’s guilt but voted guilty because I felt pressured by other jurors,” Juror 630 said.
Murdaugh’s attorneys celebrated Tuesday’s legal ruling.
“We intend to proceed expeditiously and will seek a full blown evidentiary hearing,” they said in a statement, according to the Associated Press.
The South Carolina State Attorney General who was in charge of leading prosecutorial efforts in the case declined to comment following the latest ruling in the case.
"We will respond through the legal process at the appropriate time," a spokesperson for the office said, per Fox News.
Hill denies the allegations.
In March, Murdaugh was found guilty and given two consecutive sentences of life in prison without the possibility for parole for the 2021 murders of his wife, Maggie Murdaugh, and youngest son, Paul Murdaugh.
Last month, Murdaugh pleaded guilty to a plethora of financial crimes for his role in defrauding millions of dollars from unsuspecting clients during his time as a personal injury lawyer. In total, Murdaugh pleaded guilty to 14 counts of money laundering, five counts of wire fraud, and a count each of bank fraud, conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Prosecutors said Murdaugh killed his wife and son, in part, to draw attention away from his spiraling financial crimes, as well as to generate sympathy for himself.