On January 17, 2024, The Messenger News reported that disgraced South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh appeared in court again as he pursues a new trial for murder charges he was convicted of last year. Murdaugh is arguing that improper contact between the jury and the local court clerk compromised the fairness of his original trial.
Murdaugh was found guilty in June 2023 for the June 2021 killings of his wife Maggie and youngest son at the family’s home in South Carolina. He received two consecutive life sentences for the double homicide.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Murdaugh’s defense attorneys Jim Griffin and Dick Harpootlian presented claims that Rebecca Hill, the Clerk of Court for Colleton County, had private communications with jurors while the panel was sequestered during deliberations. The lawyers assert these discussions may have swayed the jury’s decision to find Murdaugh guilty.
Hill is also accused by the defense of wanting to profit from the highly publicized case. In August 2023, she published a book titled “Behind the Doors of Justice: The Murdaugh Murders” about the events of the trial over which she presided.
However, presiding Justice Jean Toal said the defense must demonstrate Hill directly influenced jurors in a prejudicial way, not simply that she may have acted improperly otherwise. Upcoming evidentiary hearings will feature testimony from Hill and jurors.
Toal ruled the new trial request cannot explore unrelated claims against Hill, such as allegedly misusing public funds or plagiarizing parts of her unpublished work. Murdaugh’s attorneys must prove jury tampering affected the verdict’s fairness.
In November 2023, Murdaugh received an additional 27 years in prison after pleading guilty to financial crimes involving millions stolen from his old law firm. State and federal authorities are still investigating other allegations against Murdaugh as well.
Source: The Messenger News