Alex Murdaugh’s defense team files motion for a new trial

Published: Sep. 5, 2023 at 4:02 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 5, 2023 at 5:48 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, Sc. (WTOC) - Alex Murdaugh’s legal team filed two motions Tuesday, including these 65 pages asking for a new trial. Within the document, they site three different jurors in support of their claim that there was intentional jury tampering done by an elected official.

They’re claiming that Colleton County clerk of court, Rebecca Hill, advised jurors not to believe Alex Murdaugh’s testimony, pressured them to reach a quick guilty verdict, lied to the judge to get a juror removed that might have voted not guilty, and more.

The trial started with 12 jurors and six alternates but by the verdict, that total of 18 had dropped to just 13 with five jurors being removed throughout the six weeks of court for various reasons. Alex Murdaugh’s defense team is now saying they have new evidence that proves the clerk of court misrepresented information to the judge, specifically to have a juror removed during closing arguments that may have voted not guilty come verdict deliberations.

That’s just the start of the allegations against Hill. Jim Griffin, one of Murdaugh’s attorneys, explaining another.

“The clerk of court had improper private communications with the jurors and the subject matter… the subject matter of those communications was the credibility of the defense that the Murdaugh legal team put up and it was the believability of the defendants own testimony,” said Griffin.

Griffin, who was emotional in his closing argument back in March, speaking about how this tampering affected the jury’s view of Alex Murdaugh while he testified in his own defense.

“When we considered what factors and what we should and should not do and considered whether he should take the stand, we never considered the likelihood as reported to us by the jurors that the clerk of court would go into the sanctity of the jury room before he testified and tell the jurors, don’t be fooled by his testimony, watch out for his body language, and that is what the sworn testimony that we have filed in court today says and if that is true - which we have every reason to believe that it is and no reason to believe that it is not - there is no choice but for the court to grant a new trial.”

This potential tampering is information they got from jurors, who he says were upset after the clerk of court released a book about the trial. Two of those jurors who have come forward are now represented by Lowcountry attorney Joe McCulloch, who sent us a statement.

It says in part, “Some of the jurors in this case have spoken publicly, and the jurors that I represent have come forward reluctantly. However, in cognition of their senses of right and wrong they have provided information that must now be examined carefully by the court.”

To get to a new trial, there are a lot of steps to be taken, starting with an evidentiary hearing that would allow Murdaugh’s team to present evidence of their claims. The second ball they’re trying to start rolling here is an investigation into whether or not the initial trial was fair.

They say if the Colleton County clerk of court did tamper with the jury, as an elected official her conduct and thus the trial should be subject to an FBI investigation.

“I think it’s important also to understand she is a state actor and that’s why we forwarded a letter today to the US attorney asking them to open this investigation into the violation of Alex Murdaugh’s civil rights by a state actor under color of state law,” said one of Murdaugh’s attorneys Dick Harpootlian.

Harpootlian says in his decades of law experience he’s never seen anything like the conduct he’s claiming happened with this jury.