Colleton County Clerk of Court Rebecca Hill says she did not try to influence the jurors who convicted ex-attorney Alex Murdaugh of murder.
Hill denied the tampering allegations point-by-point in a written affidavit filed Nov. 7 as part of prosecutors’ first detailed response to Murdaugh’s claims. Murdaugh’s allegations, she said, included “numerous misrepresentations and false statements.”
In her sworn statement hill stated that she did not talk to jurors one-on-one about the case or ask them about their opinions and that she didn’t warn them to not be fooled by his defense team’s arguments or call Murdaugh a liar, as he claimed.
Murdaugh’s defense team made bombshell allegations in September that Hill had sought to steer jurors toward a guilty verdict, accusing her of talking to the foreperson alone and urging them to disregard the defense’s arguments, among other allegations. They included affidavits from a handful of jurors and summarized conversations with others to back up their claims.
Agents from the State Law Enforcement Division questioned most of the jury panel’s other members and prosecutors say, for the most part, they said they didn’t witness anything inappropriate. Ten of the 12 jurors who convicted Murdaugh gave SLED written statements, and none of them said they felt influenced.
Murdaugh’s defense previously attacked the credibility of SLED’s jury-tampering inquiry, saying the agency would be too invested in defending Murdaugh’s guilty verdict after leading the murder investigation. However, its interviews did include some comments that could prove useful to the defense’s case.
One of the alternate jurors told SLED that Hill mentioned to jurors that the defense “may say things to confuse you,” prosecutors wrote. In the alternate juror’s statement, Hill said, “Don’t let them confuse or convince you.”
Defense attorneys Harpootlian and Griffin have based their motion for a new hearing on the allegations that Hill made up a Facebook post to have a juror removed.
“Under Murdaugh’s theory, Clerk Hill heard the Court had received an e-mail which implicated a specific juror, then in immediate response on the fly reported a fictitious Facebook post to implicate that same juror,” court documents state.
Court documents state the juror was removed after an on-camera interview where they admitted to discussing the case while delivering a refrigerator to their tenants.
The state has argued Murdaugh’s allegations don’t even warrant a hearing to air the claims. Saying, a judge should throw out the allegations, because the defense doesn’t claim any jurors were influenced by Hill’s alleged efforts.
It’s unclear how the process will proceed from here. A judge could convene an evidentiary hearing to take testimony and consider the allegations in more detail, but first, the courts will have to decide which judge will make that call.
Murdaugh’s attorneys have asked the S.C. Supreme Court to remove Judge Clifton Newman, who presided over the trial, from the case. Prosecutors have not yet responded to that request, and the high court hasn’t taken it up.
For more information visit sccourts.org