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Court Clerk in Alex Murdaugh Murder Case Denies Jury Tampering Accusations
“Only Alex Murdaugh could conceive of such a confounded gambit as even remotely possible,” the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office wrote in court papers in response to Alex Murdaugh’s lawyers’ accusations of jury tampering in their push for a retrial.
The South Carolina court clerk accused of influencing the jury that found Alex Murdaugh guilty of murder has denied any wrongdoing in a sworn affidavit.
Rebecca Hill, the Colleton County Clerk of Court, submitted the sworn statement, which was filed by prosecutors on Tuesday, The Associated Press reported. The affidavit rejected allegations Hill had suggested Murdaugh was guilty or asked jurors if they thought he was guilty prior to deliberations.
In March, Murdaugh was found guilty of murdering his wife, Maggie Murdaugh and son, Paul Murdaugh at the family’s estate in 2021. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Last month, Murdaugh’s legal team filed a motion, accusing Hill of jury tampering, in a bid for a retrial. His lawyers are asking for a “full blown” evidentiary hearing to examine Hill’s conduct in relation to the jury tampering claims. A South Carolina appeals court granted his request to petition for a new murder trial in October.
What are the allegations against Rebecca Hill?
Murdaugh’s legal team says Hill implied Murdaugh was guilty by telling jurors their deliberations shouldn’t take up much time — thereby hinting the disgraced legal scion was guilty. In sworn statements from three jurors, the defense also accused Hill of having inappropriate conversations with the jury forewoman in a private bathroom. The defense has also claimed Hill fabricated a tale regarding a Facebook post in order to orchestrate the removal of a juror who might have been inclined to vote for Murdaugh’s acquittal.
Tuesday’s filing by the state meticulously refuted each of Murdaugh’s legal team’s assertions around the case’s jury tampering allegations.
“Only Alex Murdaugh could conceive of such a confounded gambit as even remotely possible, and he is projecting his own calculating, manipulative psyche onto a dedicated public servant in an effort to save himself,” the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office stated in court documents.
In the wake of the bombshell murder trial, which became the fodder of news broadcasts, magazine features, documentaries and podcasts across the country, Hill, along with jurors and Judge Clifton Newman, all emerged as overnight true crime celebrities.
Murdaugh's lawyers argue that Hill, who published her memoir, Behind the Doors of Justice: The Murdaugh Murders earlier this year, abused her position and wielded the media to seek fame and fortune in the trial’s aftermath. Hill has appeared in multiple televised and documentary interviews with major outlets like NBC and Fox since Murdaugh’s trial. In court papers seeking an evidentiary hearing, Murdaugh’s lawyers allege Hill handed jurors business cards of reporters who sought interviews prior to deliberations as well.
How have prosecutors responded to the Murdaugh jury tampering allegations?
However, in the state's reply to Murdaugh’s motion for appeal, jurors who were interviewed by state agents insisted they hadn’t felt pressured to reach a verdict quickly. They said they observed no wrongdoing on Hill’s behalf and instead applauded her and her office’s conduct. Four court workers also denied any malfeasance by Hill in interviews with prosecutors.
One juror did say, however, that Hill approached them with a producer from NBC's Dateline after the verdict was delivered, inquiring about an interview, and appeared disappointed when they declined.
Beyond the jury tampering allegations, in its filing this week, the state equated the foundation of Murdaugh’s attempts to secure a new trial as pure smoke and mirrors. Murdaugh’s lawyers, prosecutors wrote in their response, “failed to make the prima facie showing necessary to justify so much as an evidentiary hearing, let alone a new trial."
The state argued that the request for a new trial ought to be rejected on the grounds that the jurors had rendered an exceptional public service, and summoning them again after completing their duty would constitute harassment.
“Needless exposure of jurors to litigative stress and impeachment by zealous attorneys, particularly in a case of with this level (of) public exposure, can only serve to further discourage citizens from willfully participating in this duty,” prosecutors added.
Even if Murdaugh is successful in his efforts to overturn his conviction, he’s expected to remain behind bars. The former attorney is facing punishment for numerous financial crimes. In September, Murdaugh pleaded guilty to a series of federal charges accusing him of swindling millions from personal injury clients while working at his family’s law firm. He’s awaiting sentencing in that case. It’s expected he’ll be served with several more years, if not decades, of prison time. The proceedings to determine his penalty are scheduled to get underway this month.
According to state law, Judge Newman, who sentenced Murdaugh to two consecutive life sentences, was slated to rule whether jurors could be questioned at a potential evidentiary hearing. However, Murdaugh’s lawyers have asked the state Supreme Court to remove Newman from the appeals process, including any of his future trials. Murdaugh’s attorneys are now demanding proceedings be halted until a ruling is made regarding Newman’s involvement.
This also encompasses a state trial involving separate financial crimes and insurance fraud, which is tied to a botched plot in which Murdaugh allegedly paid an associate and distant cousin to shoot him. Prosecutors, who described the incident as an assisted suicide attempt, said Murdaugh orchestrated the shooting so his surviving son, Buster Murdaugh, could collect a sizable life insurance payout. Murdaugh survived the bizarre ordeal after the bullet only grazed his head.
Oxygen.com has reached out to Murdaugh's attorney, Jim Griffin, for further comment.