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State Opens Probe of Alleged Jury-Tampering in Murdaugh Case

Joshua Boucher/Pool/The State/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
Joshua Boucher/Pool/The State/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

South Carolina authorities are officially looking into allegations of jury tampering in Alex Murdaugh’s murder trial—days after his defense team accused a court clerk of influencing the panel toward a conviction.

State Attorney General Alan Wilson said he asked the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) to investigate the bombshell claims from Murdaugh’s lawyers that Colleton County clerk of court Rebecca Hill tampered with the 12-person jury during the February trial.

In a 65-page motion for a new trial filed on Tuesday, defense attorneys accuse Hill of advising jurors “not to believe Murdaugh’s testimony and other evidence presented by the defense, pressuring them to reach a quick guilty verdict, and even misrepresenting critical and material information to the trial judge in her campaign to remove a juror she believed to be favorable to the defense.”

After a six-week trial, jurors took only three hours to find Murdaugh guilty of murdering his wife, Maggie, and his son, Paul, at their hunting estate in July 2021. He was handed two life sentences and faces over 100 separate pending charges for a slew of other crimes.

“The State’s only vested interest is seeking the truth,” Wilson said in a statement. “As with all investigations, SLED and the South Carolina Attorney General's Office are committed to a fair and impartial investigation and will continue to follow the facts wherever they lead.”

Hill and her lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment. On Tuesday, Hill denied any wrongdoing to The Daily Beast, calling the allegations “totally not true.” Murdaugh’s legal team also did not respond.

Alex Murdaugh Lawyers Claim Fame-Hungry Clerk Rebecca Hill Tainted Jury

The news of another SLED investigation connected to Murdaugh comes just days after his defense team sent a letter to U.S. Attorney Adair Boroughs to request a federal investigation into whether their client’s civil rights were violated during the trial by potential witness tampering. Defense attorneys Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin asked at that time that SLED “stand down on initiating any investigation of these allegations since they are heavily invested in maintaining Alex’s conviction.”

“Mr. Murdaugh may be the most unpopular man in South Carolina right now,” the two lawyers said in the letter to Boroughs. “He has become the symbol of the Lowcountry judicial corruption. Disgust at his frauds unfortunately has created in some minds a ‘but not Alex Murdaugh’ exception to the due process rights enjoyed by all Americans, regardless [of] guilt or innocence. Those minds may delight in the irony that he may very well be a victim of the corruption he symbolizes.”

The motion details several instances of what the defense described as jury tampering during the second half of Murdaugh’s trial. They said several jurors provided them with details of conversations with Hill inside the jury room and alleged that Hill had private chats with the jury foreperson.

Hill also allegedly encouraged the others not to “be fooled” by Murdaugh before he testified in his own defense during the trial, the motion states.

“Y’all are going to hear things that will throw you all off. Don’t let this distract you or mislead you,” Hill allegedly told jurors.

The motion also accuses Hill of inventing a Facebook post from the ex-husband of a juror who claimed the juror believed Murdaugh was innocent. Hill allegedly told Judge Clifton Newman about the post, which resulted in the juror being removed from the trial just before deliberations.

After the trial, Hill wrote a book about her experience as an elected state official involved in the trial and even allegedly helped jurors get on television to talk about their own experiences.

“Ms. Hill told jurors that after the trial they would be famous and predicted that the media would request interviews with them. Ms. Hill even handed out reporters’ business cards to jurors during the trial,” the motion states, adding that Hill went with several jurors to New York for their Today show appearance.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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