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Alex Murdaugh's Lawyers Request New Trial, Accusing Court Clerk of Tampering with the Jury
A new motion filed by the convicted murderer's legal team alleges that Colleton County Clerk of Court Rebecca Hill told jurors not to trust Murdaugh and used her position for profit and fame.
Lawyers for disbarred South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh, who was convicted in March of murdering his wife and their youngest son, have requested a new trial in legal filings that accuse the court clerk in the case of jury tampering.
The motion, filed Tuesday, accuses Colleton County Clerk of Court Rebecca Hill of using her position for profit and fame, of telling jurors not to trust Murdaugh when he testified in his defense, of pressuring jurors to quickly reach a verdict, and of having private conversations with the jury foreperson, according to the Associated Press.
Hill, who co-authored a book on the murder trial that was released earlier this summer, is also accused of handing members of the jury reporters' business cards while the trial was still going on, and of traveling to New York with several jurors to do interviews after Murdaugh's conviction.
Hill's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Oxygen.com on Wednesday.
Dick Harpootlian, one of Murdaugh's defense lawyers, said that trial court clerks “aren’t someone who should even talk to [jurors] about the case. I’ve never heard of that,” according to the AP.
Murdaugh's legal team is asking that appellate judges toss out his double murder convictions, order an evidentiary hearing and then a new trial.
The disgraced former lawyer was found guilty on March 2 of fatally shooting his wife Maggie, 52, and son Paul, 22, at the family's Colleton County hunting compound on June 7, 2021. He was handed back-to-back life sentences, without the possibility of parole, on March 3.
Prosecutors said during the trial that Murdaugh was driven to kill his family members to put off scrutiny over mounting allegations that he committed financial crimes at his law firm.
The appeal filed by Murdaugh's lawyers reportedly includes sworn statements from three jurors who say that Hill had private conversations with the jury foreperson inside the courthouse and also when jurors went to the Murdaugh property crime scene. A statement from the foreperson was not included in the appeal.
Murdaugh's attorneys were told by the jurors they spoke to that Hill informed them “not to be fooled” by what the defense presented, and to watch Murdaugh closely when he testified in his own defense and “look at his movements,” according to the new court filings. One juror said they interpreted this to mean that the defendant was guilty, according to the AP.
The new filings also allege that Hill, who was elected to her clerk of court position in 2020, told jurors on March 2, as they began deliberating the murder case, that they'd be brought to a hotel if they couldn't reach a verdict by 11 p.m. This allegedly upset jurors who hadn't planned and packed to stay somewhere overnight, the motion states.
Hill also allegedly told some jury members that they couldn't break to smoke until a verdict was reached.
“I had questions about Mr. Murdaugh’s guilt but voted guilty because I felt pressured by other jurors,” someone identified as Juror 630 said in a sworn statement in the appeal.
The same juror also reportedly claimed that Hill pressured members of the jury to speak with reporters after the trial.
Hill is further accused in the appeal of lying to the judge during the trial about a social media post that led to one juror getting dismissed. Hill had said the juror’s ex-husband posted that the juror was speaking about the case and what a potential verdict would be.
The new motion states that Hill only showed the judge an apology from what she claimed was the ex's Facebook account, without ever showing the judge the original post. The apology allegedly was not actually posted from the ex-husband’s account, according to Murdaugh's defense attorneys.
The legal filings also include a transcript from a meeting about the dismissed juror, in which Judge Clifton Newman allegedly said, “I’m not too pleased about the clerk interrogating a juror as opposed to coming to me and bringing it to me.”
Murdaugh's lawyers stated of Hill, "She asked jurors about their opinions about Mr. Murdaugh’s guilt or innocence. 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."
In separate legal issues, Murdaugh is due in court on September 21, where he's expected to plead guilty to federal charges that he robbed his clients of millions of dollars.