After the court heard accusations of jury manipulation, Alex Murdaugh’s double-murder trial was refused

After the court heard accusations of jury manipulation, Alex Murdaugh's double-murder trial was refused | Image Credit: ajc.com
After the court heard accusations of jury manipulation, Alex Murdaugh’s double-murder trial was refused | Image Credit: ajc.com

On Monday, a South Carolina judge rejected Alex Murdaugh’s request for a new trial following accusations from his defense team that a court clerk had tampered with the jury’s selection.

Colleton County Clerk Becky Hill said she was “attracted by the siren song of stardom,” but Judge Jean Toal expressed doubts about whether Hill was speaking the truth when she stated she never discussed the issue with the jury.

Toal, however, stated that all 12 jurors who gave testimony claimed that their verdict to find Murdaugh guilty was unaffected by any remarks made by others.

After reading the whole six-week trial transcript, Toal stated she was unable to overturn the decision “on the ground of some transient and dumb words by a publicity-seeking clerk of court” since the jurors’ opinions were not actively changed.

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After traveling 90 miles (145 kilometers) from Colleton County to Columbia, all 12 jurors gave their evidence, which mostly consisted of yes-or-no questions from the judge’s script and lasted around three minutes. As he watched alongside his attorneys, Murdaugh—a disbarred lawyer, acknowledged thief facing a life sentence, and now convicted killer—wore an orange prison jumpsuit.

In her testimony, Hill further stated that she never discussed the case or Murdaugh with the jury.

Hill stated, “I never discussed anything like that with any jurors.”

After Hill claimed that Toal had used “literary license” for some of the things she had written in her book about the trial, including whether or not she had worried that the jury may find him not guilty as she read the judgment, Toal began to doubt her sincerity.

“I did feel a particular way,” Hill said.

Afterwards, Barnwell County Clerk Rhonda McElveen was called by Murdaugh’s defense, and she supported Hill throughout the trial. According to McElveen, Hill recommended that they co-write a book on the case before to the trial, “because she wanted a lake house and I wanted to retire,” and that a guilty decision would increase book sales.

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During the cross-examination, McElveen stated that she didn’t contact the trial judge because she didn’t believe any of Hill’s remarks or actions qualified as misconduct.

Hill was also questioned about why, hours before the jury was presented with the evidence, she had informed others that she thought the deliberations would not go long. With years of experience in a courtroom, the clerk claimed it was a gut instinct.

The first juror brought to the stand on Monday made a sworn statement, which served as part of the impetus for the unique hearing.

Reiterating her remarks from August of last year, she claimed on Monday that Hill instructed juries to take note of Murdaugh’s behavior and “watch him attentively” throughout his testimony in support of himself.

The lady, who went by Juror Z alone, claimed, “She made it appear like he was already convicted.” “Yes ma’am,” she said when asked if this affected her decision to vote for him to be found guilty.

During additional interrogation, the juror reiterated a claim she had made in the August affidavit, namely that her decision to vote guilty was affected more by her fellow jurors than by the clerk’s remarks.

She stated, “I felt pressured by other jurors to vote guilty even though I had doubts about Mr. Murdaugh’s culpability.”

One by one, the remaining jurors entered their judgments and declared that nothing outside of the trial had affected them. One claimed to have heard Hill advise people to “watch his body language” before to Murdaugh’s testimony, but he was unaffected by the statement.

Prosecutor Creighton Waters stated, “You had 11 of them strong as a rock who declared this verdict was not affected.” “The overwhelming weight of the evidence comes from the important people.”

Toal’s finding that Hill lacked credibility would ultimately prevail in an appeals court, according to defense lawyer Jim Griffin, and Murdaugh’s conviction will be reversed.

Griffin stated outside of court, “We didn’t believe she would declare that the innocent man was unfairly convicted.”

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The transition of Murdaugh from a powerful lawyer in his tiny county to a life sentence without the possibility of release has been extensively reported by blogs, podcasts, and true crime shows.

Toal established a challenging bar for Murdaugh’s attorneys. She decided that the defense had to demonstrate that Hill’s possible wrongdoing had a direct impact on the jurors’ decision to find Hill guilty.

Before retirement, Toal served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of South Carolina for fifteen years. The justices of the present high court nominated her to make a decision about the claims of jury misconduct.

Furthermore, Toal restricted the scope of questions that could be directed towards Hill. These questions included whether a criminal investigation was warranted to find out if the elected clerk had used her position for financial gain, if she had conspired with her son, who is accused of wiretapping county phones, or if she had copied a section of her book from a BBC reporter who had mistakenly emailed her rather than her boss using a similar address.

Hill said during her Monday testimony that she had copied the BBC reporter’s writing.

Murdaugh, 55, will not be exonerated even if he is granted a new murder trial. He is also receiving a 27-year sentence after confessing to stealing $12 million from his legal practice and from settlements he obtained for customers suing for catastrophic injuries and wrongful death. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Murdaugh pledged not to challenge that punishment.

Since telling investigators he discovered his wife Maggie’s and younger son Paul’s deaths at their Colleton County home in 2021, Murdaugh has said he did not kill them with a shotgun and a rifle. He provided testimony on his own behalf.

yet if this attempt is unsuccessful, Murdaugh hasn’t yet begun the formal appeals of his sentence, in which his attorneys will likely contend that the judge’s allowance of extensive testimony about his financial crimes during his murder trial was unjust, among other reasons. They said that this gave the prosecution the opportunity to discredit Murdaugh by using evidence unrelated to the murders.

Source:
https://www.wbal.com/alex-murdaugh-tries-to-prove-jury-tampering-led-to-his-murder-conviction/


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