Alex Murdaugh denied new double-murder trial after choose hears jury tampering allegations – National


A South Carolina choose on Monday denied Alex Murdaugh‘s bid for a brand new trial after his defence staff accused a clerk of court docket of tampering with a jury.

Judge Jean Toal mentioned she wasn’t positive if Colleton County Clerk Becky Hill was telling the reality that she by no means spoke to jurors concerning the case, saying she was “attracted by the siren call of celebrity.”

But Toal mentioned the 12 jurors who testified all mentioned any feedback didn’t immediately affect their determination to search out Murdaugh responsible.

Toal mentioned after reviewing the complete transcript of the six-week trial, she couldn’t overturn the decision primarily based “on the strength of some fleeting and foolish comments by a publicity-seeking clerk of court” as a result of they didn’t actively change the jurors’ minds.

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All 12 jurors took the 90-mile (145-kilometre) journey from Colleton County to Columbia to provide what was usually about three minutes of testimony, largely yes-or-no questions from the choose’s script. Murdaugh, now a convicted killer, disbarred lawyer and admitted thief serving a life sentence, wore an orange jail jumpsuit as he watched along with his attorneys.

Hill additionally testified, denying she ever spoke concerning the case or Murdaugh in any respect with jurors.

“I never talked to any jurors about anything like that,” Hill mentioned.

Toal questioned her truthfulness after Hill mentioned she used “literary license” for some issues she wrote about in her guide concerning the trial, together with whether or not she feared as she learn the decision that the jury may find yourself discovering him not responsible.

“I did have a certain way I felt,” Hill mentioned.

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Murdaugh’s defence later known as Barnwell County Clerk Rhonda McElveen, who helped Hill throughout the trial. McElveen mentioned that Hill prompt earlier than the trial that they write a guide on the case collectively, “because she wanted a lake house and I wanted to retire,” and {that a} responsible verdict would promote extra books.

Under cross-examination, McElveen mentioned she didn’t attain out to the trial choose as a result of she didn’t suppose any of Hill’s feedback or behaviors rose to the extent of misconduct.

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Hill was additionally questioned about why she instructed folks hours earlier than the jury obtained the case that she anticipated deliberations to be quick. The clerk mentioned it was a intestine feeling after years in a courtroom.

The uncommon listening to was prompted partly by a sworn assertion from the primary juror known as to the stand Monday.

She affirmed what she mentioned final August, repeating Monday that Hill instructed jurors to notice Murdaugh’s actions and “watch him closely” when he testified in his personal defence.

“She made it seem like he was already guilty,” the lady, recognized solely as Juror Z, mentioned. Asked whether or not this influenced her vote to search out him responsible, she mentioned, “Yes ma’am.”

In later questioning, the juror mentioned she additionally stands by one other assertion she made within the August affidavit: that it was her fellow jurors, greater than the clerk’s statements, that influenced her to vote responsible.

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“I had questions about Mr. Murdaugh’s guilt but voted guilty because I felt pressured by other jurors,” she mentioned.

The remainder of the jury filed in one after the other and mentioned their verdicts weren’t influenced by something outdoors the trial. One mentioned he heard Hill say “watch his body language” earlier than Murdaugh testified, however mentioned Hill’s remark didn’t change his thoughts.

“You have 11 of them strong as a rock who said this verdict was not influenced,” prosecutor Creighton Waters mentioned. “The evidence is overwhelming from the people who mattered.”

Defence lawyer Jim Griffin mentioned Toal’s perception that Hill was not credible will finally be a win in an appeals court docket and Murdaugh’s conviction might be overturned.

“The innocent man was wrongly convicted — we didn’t think she would say that,” Griffin mentioned outdoors court docket.

Murdaugh’s fall from his position as an lawyer lording over his small county to a sentence of life with out parole has been exhaustively coated by true crime reveals, podcasts and bloggers.

Toal set a tough commonplace for Murdaugh’s attorneys. She dominated the protection should show that potential misconduct by Hill immediately led jurors to alter their minds to responsible.

Toal was Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court for 15 years earlier than retiring. She was appointed by the present excessive court docket justices to rule on the juror misconduct allegations.

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Toal additionally restricted what may very well be requested of Hill, ruling out in depth questions on a prison investigation into whether or not the elected clerk used her workplace for monetary achieve, emailed prosecutors with options on the right way to discredit a protection professional, conspired along with her son who’s charged with wiretapping county telephones, or plagiarized a part of her guide utilizing a passage from a BBC reporter who unintentionally emailed her as a substitute of her boss with an identical tackle.

Hill admitted lifting the writing of the BBC reporter throughout her Monday testimony.

Even if Murdaugh, 55, will get a brand new homicide trial he gained’t stroll out free. He’s additionally serving 27 years after admitting he stole $12 million from his regulation agency and from settlements he gained for purchasers on wrongful dying and severe damage lawsuits. Murdaugh promised to not attraction that sentence as a part of his plea deal.

Murdaugh has remained adamant that he didn’t kill his youthful son Paul with a shotgun and his spouse Maggie with a rifle, for the reason that second he instructed deputies he discovered their our bodies at their Colleton County house in 2021. He testified in his personal defence.

Even if this effort fails, Murdaugh hasn’t even began the common appeals of his sentence, the place his attorneys are anticipated to argue a number of the explanation why his homicide trial was unfair, together with the choose permitting voluminous testimony of his monetary crimes. They mentioned this enabled prosecutors to smear Murdaugh with proof in a roundabout way linked to the killings.

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