Judge Jean Toal denied Alex Murdaugh’s bid for a new double-murder trial on Monday, January 29th after his defense team accused a clerk of court of tampering with a jury.
Toal announced her decision just after 5 p.m. Monday. She ruled that even if Colleton County Clerk Becky Hill did tell jurors to watch Murdaugh’s actions and body language on the stand, the defense failed to prove that such comments directly influenced their decision to find him guilty.
In a hearing that began with testimony from 11 of the 12 Jurors (The 12th testified on Friday. January 26th due to a scheduling conflict.). The proceeding continued after the lunch break with testimony from Colleton County Clerk of Court, Becky Hill. Following Hill, Rhonda McElveen Clerk of Court for Barnwell County was brought to the stand to answer questions about her friendship with Hill.
McElveen, who assisted Hill during the trial, testified that Hill suggested before the trial that they should write a book about the case together, “because she wanted a lake house and I wanted to retire.”
McElveen under cross-examination, testified that she didn’t reach out to the trial Judge Newman because she didn’t believe any of Hill’s comments rose to the level of misconduct.
Two jurors from last year’s Alex Murdaugh murder trial said they heard the Colleton County clerk of court make comments before Murdaugh took the stand in his defense.
The first juror called during the hearing Monday said that Hill influenced her decision. When further questioned by Toal the juror said the jury had pressured her in her decision.
A second juror told retired South Carolina Chief Justice Jean Toal Hill made a comment to watch Murdaugh’s body language but that did not influence his decision on the verdict.
Toal said after reviewing the full transcript of the six-week trial, she couldn’t overturn the verdict based “on the strength of some fleeting and foolish comments by a publicity-seeking clerk of court.” Toal ultimately said Hill was not a completely credible witness.