Judge denies Alex Murdaugh’s bid for new double-murder trial after hearing jury tampering allegations

Judge denies Alex Murdaugh's bid for new double-murder trial after hearing jury tampering allegations

A South Carolina judge has rejected Alex Murdaugh’s request for a new trial, despite his defense team’s claims that a court clerk tampered with the jury. Colleton County Clerk Becky Hill was accused of influencing jurors to watch Murdaugh’s behavior on the stand. Judge Jean Toal ruled that, even if Hill made such comments, the defense failed to prove they directly affected the guilty verdict. Murdaugh, convicted of killing his wife and son, faced the court as jurors who found him guilty were questioned about Hill’s remarks. The judge sought to determine if these comments influenced their decision.

Juror Z claimed that Hill made it seem like Murdaugh was already guilty, affecting her vote. However, other jurors testified that they didn’t hear any comments from the clerk and that external factors did not influence their verdicts. A surprising twist occurred when a bailiff revealed that, due to not confiscating jurors’ cellphones, some watched the Court TV live feed during the hearing break, hearing the first juror’s statements. Despite the setback, the judge proceeded to record jurors’ testimony. This hearing was prompted by allegations of jury tampering by Murdaugh’s attorneys.

The defense contends that Hill’s alleged comments compromised the trial’s fairness. However, Judge Toal set a high standard for proving misconduct, requiring the defense to show that such comments directly led jurors to change their minds. The defense argued that even subtle influence should matter, but Toal limited the scope of the hearing, excluding questions about Hill’s conduct beyond juror contact. The jurors’ testimonies are considered unusual, and the judge emphasized focusing on whether the verdict was affected by the court clerk’s actions.

Attorney Eric Bland, representing five jurors, expressed confidence that they rendered a just verdict. Meanwhile, Hill, who faces allegations of email interference and wiretapping charges involving her son, denied jury tampering in a sworn statement. Murdaugh, serving life for the murders and additional time for theft, appeared in a prison jumpsuit. The legal battle continues as Murdaugh awaits regular appeals, with claims that his murder trial was unfair due to the judge allowing unrelated financial crime testimony.