Murdaugh’s defense alleges that the court clerk, who later published a book about the trial, rigged the jury to reach a guilty verdict.
If this turns out to be true, it could result in the conviction being overturned: Murdaugh was sentenced to two life sentences without the possibility of bail.
The case against Alex Murdaugh
Paul Murdaugh, 22, was shot twice with a shotgun, each with a different caliber bullet, while Maggie Murdaugh, 52, was shot four times with a rifle.
A crime scene report indicated that both victims were already wounded and killed by a shot in the head.
The investigation leading to Murdaugh’s indictment lasted a year, and while the crime could have carried the death penalty, prosecutors decided not to seek it.
Prosecutors argued that Murdaugh killed his wife and son to distract from his financial crimes and proved that Murdaugh lied to the police. It was also proven that he was at the scene of the crime only five minutes earlier.
Following the trial, Murdaugh continued to maintain his innocence in the high-profile case that inspired series documentaries on HBO and Netflix.
Suspicion of improper conduct in the jury room
Attorneys Jim Griffin and Dick Harpootlian alleged in a brief filed in court that Rebecca Hill, the Colleton County court clerk, told jurors “not to be fooled by the defense’s arguments” during the sentencing and referenced Murdaugh’s body language regard.
In this sense, Murdaugh’s lawyers accuse the clerk of the court of improper conduct.
Griffin and Harpoolitan allege that Hill urged the jurors for a quick verdict during jury deliberations, telling them that if they did not reach an agreement by 11 p.m. when they were not told to pack, they would be taken to a hotel.
The attorneys also allege that Hill told six jurors who were smokers that they could not take a smoke break until they reached a verdict.
It took less than three hours for the jury to return its guilty verdict.
The motion filed by Murdaugh’s attorneys on Tuesday also alleges Hill gave jurors business cards from journalists during the trial and claims he traveled to New York City with three of the jurors after the verdict for interviews.
Hill wrote a book about the case, Behind the Doors of Justice: The Murdaugh Murders, which was published after the verdict was announced. None of the jurors wanted to speak to Murdaugh’s attorneys until the book was published.
A new trial for Murdaugh?
Griffin said at a press conference that anyone the defense tried to speak to refused to answer until Hill’s book came out. Only then did a reluctant jury open the door as Harpootlian’s team made another round of in-person visits over the weekends.
The attorneys want the appeals court to order an evidentiary hearing that would allow them to compel other jurors, witnesses and possibly even the trial judge to testify under oath.
The hearing would also allow attorneys to receive phone records, emails and text messages. For now, they only have what Harpootlian’s team has gathered from visits to jury houses.
The defense spoke to four jurors, including affidavits from two of them that Hill had private discussions with the foreman, both in court and when a jury visited the crime scene at Murdaugh’s property.
The attorneys also allege Hill lied to the judge during the trial about a Facebook post that led to the removal of a jury. Hill said that person’s ex-husband posted that she spoke about the case and the verdict.
Hill never produced the post, merely showing the judge an apology for what he described as the ex-husband’s account. However, the apology post did not come from the ex-husband’s account, and the defense said an analysis of his Facebook account showed he made no posts that day, the lawyers wrote.
“I had questions about Mr. Murdaugh’s guilt, but I voted guilty because I felt pressured by other jurors,” the 630th juror wrote in an affidavit, adding that Hill pressured her to to speak to reporters after the trial. The appeal conceals their names and identifies jurors solely by their hearing numbers.
The final pages of the 65-page application cite a contract between Hill and a television production company with a handwritten note, allegedly by Hill, stating that in exchange for his appearance they would have to show the cover of his book. in the transmission.
South Carolina law has extremely stringent requirements for overturning a jury verdict, but Murdaugh’s attorneys allege that Hill’s behavior spoiled the entire trial and did not give them an opportunity to adequately defend their client.
Murdaugh’s attorneys wrote in the motion that Hill: “Asked the jury for their opinion as to Mr. Murdaugh’s guilt or innocence.” He ordered them not to believe the evidence presented in Mr. Murdaugh’s defense, including his own testimony. He lied to the judge to dismiss a jury he didn’t think would find him guilty. And he pressured the jury to come to a guilty verdict quickly so he could benefit from it.”
Murdaugh’s attorneys also sent a letter to federal prosecutors asking the FBI to intervene in the investigation because they believe the state of South Carolina has a vested interest in their client’s conviction being upheld.
If the murder conviction is overturned and a new trial is called, Murdaugh will likely remain in prison.