FOX Nation takes a deep dive into the Murdaugh defense team’s request for a new trial
FOX News’ Martha MacCallum explores Alex Murdaugh’s defense team’s request for a new trial after accusing County Clerk Rebecca Hill of jury-tampering in ‘The Fall of the House of Murdaugh.’
In Alex Murdaugh’s push for a new murder trial, which was denied Monday, his defense team and South Carolina prosecutors questioned Colleton County Court Clerk Becky Hill.
During the hearing, South Carolina Supreme Court Justice Jean Toal concluded questioning of 12 jurors who presided over the Murdaugh trial — two of whom said they heard Hill make comments about watching Murdaugh’s actions and movements, and only one of whom said those comments influenced her decision to issue a guilty verdict.
Toal said before her ruling Monday that while Hill was “attracted by the siren call of celebrity” and had made “fleeting and foolish comments,” the jurors took their assignments seriously in convicting Murdaugh.
The 12-person jury found Murdaugh guilty of killing his wife, Maggie, and youngest son, Paul, on his family hunting estate in June 2021 to distract from a slew of financial crimes the disgraced attorney admitted to in November 2023.
ALEX MURDAUGH JUROR SAYS SOUTH CAROLINA COURT CLERK’S WORDS INFLUENCED HER GUILTY VERDICT
Alex Murdaugh talks with his defense attorney Jim Griffin during a jury-tampering hearing at the Richland County Judicial Center, Monday, Jan. 29, 2024, in Columbia, S.C. (Andrew J. Whitaker/The Post And Courier via AP, Pool)
Hill answered various questions related to allegations of jury tampering when she took the stand on Monday.
Hill denies commentary allegations
The first juror whom Toal questioned on Monday, referred to as Juror Z, testified that Hill said to watch Alex Murdaugh “closely” and watch his “actions,” adding that she reached a guilty verdict because of the clerk’s comments.
“To me…she made it seem like he was already guilty,” Juror Z, the first to testify Monday, said when asked how the clerk inspired her verdict.
Alex Murdaugh, right, talks with his defense attorney Jim Griffin during a jury-tampering hearing at the Richland County Judicial Center, Monday, Jan. 29, 2024, in Columbia, S.C. (Andrew J. Whitaker/The Post And Courier via AP, Pool)
Another juror said he heard the clerk make comments about watching Murdaugh’s body language but said her words did not influence his verdict.
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Hill denied all allegations that she attempted to make certain members of the jury issue a guilty verdict against Murdaugh. She specifically denied jurors’ testimony that she told them to watch Murdaugh’s actions and movements.
“I had not communicated with jurors about anything related to this trial, at all,” Hill said.
Hill says she made $100k off plagiarized book sales
Murdaugh attorney Dick Harpootlian questioned Hill about sales of her book, “Behind the Doors of Justice: The Murdaugh Murders,” published after the trial concluded, which she later admitted included plagiarized writing.
Colleton County Court Clerk, Rebecca Hill walks past her daughter who is singing at a party in Walterboro, South Carolina March 1, 2023. Becky Hill now is at the center of a motion for a retrial in the Alex Murdaugh double murder case. (Mark Sims for Fox News Digital)
Hill said she made about $100,000 from book sales with her coauthor before sales were halted due to her admitted plagiarism.
“There was not a whole lot of money made off of the book after paying for different things and paying some expenses that went along with that, but I would say roughly around $100,000,” Hill said.
ALEX MURDAUGH ‘A SHELL OF A MAN’ FOR FINANCIAL BETRAYAL, GLORIA SATTERFIELD SISTER TELLS INTERVIEWER
Judge Jean Toal talks to the court during the Alex Murdaugh jury-tampering hearing at the Richland County Judicial Center, Monday, Jan. 29, 2024, in Columbia, S.C. (Andrew J. Whitaker/The Post And Courier via AP, Pool)
Harpootlian and attorney Jim Griffin alleged in their motion for a new trial that Hill advised jurors not to believe Murdaugh’s testimony, pressured the panel to reach a “quick guilty verdict” and lied to the trial judge in a campaign to remove a panelist who was sympathetic to the defense.
“Ms. Hill did these things to secure for herself a book deal and media appearances that would not happen in the event of a mistrial,” the filing says. “Ms. Hill betrayed her oath of office for money and fame.”
WATCH ‘THE FALL OF HOUSE MURDAUGH’ ON FOX NATION
Prosecutor Creighton Waters listens to Judge Jean Toal during the Alex Murdaugh jury-tampering hearing at the Richland County Judicial Center, Monday, Jan. 29, 2024, in Columbia, S.C. (Andrew J. Whitaker/The Post And Courier via AP, Pool)
Hill said certain details about the Murdaugh family included in her book were the result of “literary ease” and apologized for plagiarizing.
“I did plagiarize. For that, I am very sorry. What I did, I did, and I apologize for that.”
Harpootlian also questioned Hill about a line in her book saying he “neutered” Griffin during Murdaugh’s double murder trial.
ALEX MURDAUGH RETURNS TO COURT TO FIGHT FOR NEW MURDER TRIAL
“Mr. Harpootlian, it was a book. … It’s just a word that was used,” she said.
Hill admits to saying deliberations would end quickly
When Harpootlian asked Hill to address allegations that she told “the press and others” about her belief that jury deliberations would not last long, Hill admitted to stating the belief as a “gut feeling.”
Alex Murdaugh is brought out into the courtroom during a jury-tampering hearing at the Richland County Judicial Center, Monday, Jan. 29, 2024, in Columbia, S.C. (Andrew J. Whitaker/The Post And Courier via AP, Pool)
“That was just a gut feeling that I had, and that was my opinion,” she said.
Jury deliberations lasted about three-and-a-half hours after a six-week trial.
Hill addresses leaked photos of victims
Justice Toal questioned Hill about the apparent leak of two sealed photographs of deceased victims Maggie and Paul Murdaugh at Moselle, the Murdaughs’ hunting estate, after they were presented in court.
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“Those photographs that were sealed court exhibits under your control found their way into the public media, did they not?”
Alex Murdaugh, convicted of killing his wife, Maggie, and younger son, Paul, in June 2021, sits during a hearing on a motion for a retrial, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024, at the Richland County Judicial Center in Columbia, S.C. (Tracy Glantz/The State via AP, Pool)
Hill responded that she believes the photographs did make their way into the public media, but she did not leak them herself.
“I think what happened is: someone from the gallery took a picture from the screen that had some of the pictures on it, if I’m remembering correctly,” the clerk testified.
Hill added that she never gave Netflix access to the photographs. Later on, when answering questions from Harpootlian, Hill said she believes Netflix got the photographs due to a mistake made by the court reporter.
Court clerk says Hill wanted to sell books, drove juror home
Rhonda McElveen – Barnwell County’s court clerk and president of the South Carolina Association of Clerks of Court & Register of Deeds – testified that Hill talked about wanting to write a book to make more money and get a lake house.
Rebecca Hill arrives to the Today Show studio in New York City, March 6, 2023. Becky Hill was the court clerk in the double-murder trial of Alex Murdaugh. (Jennifer Mitchell for Fox News Digital)
Hill suggested a guilty verdict would help her sell books, McElveen testified when questioned by Harpootlian.
McElveen also testified that Hill and a bailiff drove a juror home, which McElveen said should not be done because clerks should not be talking one on one with jurors.
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When questioned by Waters, though, McElveen said she did not see Hill speak one on one to jurors.
Audrey Conklin is a digital reporter for Fox News Digital and FOX Business. Email tips to [email protected] or on Twitter at @audpants.