WATCH LIVE: Convicted killer Alex Murdaugh back in court as he seeks new trial
Attorneys allege jury tampering in Murdaugh’s original trial that convicted him of killing his wife and son.
A South Carolina judge has ruled that Alex Murdaugh’s defense team and state prosecutors can question Colleton County Court Clerk Becky Hill, who is accused of jury tampering, in the convicted killer’s bid for a new trial.
Justice Jean Toal made the decision Friday as Murdaugh pushes for a new trial, arguing that Hill allegedly pushed jurors to convict him in the June 2021 murders of his wife, Maggie, and son, Paul, on his family hunting estate.
Toal also questioned a juror who presided over Murdaugh’s murder trial, referred to as Juror X, about Hill’s conduct on Friday, ahead of plans to question other jurors on Monday due to a complication in Juror X’s schedule.
When Toal asked if Juror X had heard “Hill make any comment about verdict in this case,” Juror X responded, “No, ma’am.”
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Justice Jean Toal decided that jurors who presided over Alex Murdaugh’s murder trial may testify about alleged jury tampering during Murdaugh’s hearing for a new trial. (Gavin McIntyre/The Post and Courier via AP, Pool)
When the justice asked the juror whether her “verdict was influenced by any way of communications from Becky Hill,” the juror responded, “No, your honor.”
Finally, when Toal asked the juror about issues with private meetings apparently held with Hill and whether they had anything to do with the Murdaugh murder case, Juror X said the meetings were about a “different matter” and had “nothing to do with the case.”
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Justice Toal is expected to question the remainder of the jurors on Monday. Toal said she plans to call the jurors one-by-one and examine them until all have been questioned.
Alex Murdaugh’s handcuffs are removed as he addresses the court during his sentencing for stealing from 18 clients, Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023, at the Beaufort County Courthouse in Beaufort, South Carolina. (Andrew J. Whitaker/The Post And Courier via AP, Pool)
After juror questioning, prosecutors and Murdaugh’s defense attorneys will be allowed to question Hill. Toal has made clear that Hill “is not on trial,” and the court clerk will only have to answer relevant questions.
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Murdaugh’s lawyers, Jim Griffin and Dick Harpootlian, 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.
Alex Murdaugh’s attorneys Dick Harpootlian, left, and Jim Griffin talk during Alex Murdaugh’s sentencing for stealing from 18 clients, Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023, at the Beaufort County Courthouse in Beaufort, South Carolina. (Andrew J. Whitaker/The Post And Courier via AP, Pool)
“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.”
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The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division has opened two investigations into Hill’s conduct during Murdaugh’s murder trial, including a probe into allegations Hill used her position as clerk to benefit financially from sales of her book about the case, which she later admitted included plagiarized writing, and another probe into the jury tampering allegations.
Rebecca Hill arrives to the “Today” studio in New York City, March 6, 2023. She was the court clerk in the double-murder trial of Alex Murdaugh. (Jennifer Mitchell for Fox News Digital)
Murdaugh, 55, was sentenced in March to two life terms for fatally shooting his 52-year-old wife, Maggie Murdaugh, and their son, Paul Murdaugh, 22, in June 2021.
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The disgraced South Carolina lawyer was also sentenced to 27 years in November for his financial crimes. He agreed to plead guilty to 22 counts — including breach of trust, money laundering, forgery and tax evasion — out of about 100 counts totaling as much as $10 million in exchange for the 27-year prison sentence.
Murdaugh previously pleaded guilty to 22 counts of financial fraud and money laundering in federal court.
Fox News’ Chelsea Torres and Rebecca Rosenberg contributed to this report.
Audrey Conklin is a digital reporter for Fox News Digital and FOX Business. Email tips to [email protected] or on Twitter at @audpants.