Prosecutors responded to Alex Murdaugh’s motion for a new trial based on allegations of jury tampering in his murder trial, saying South Carolina investigators found “significant factual disputes” with the claims.
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson’s response filed Friday admits a hearing may be needed to decide whether the convicted killer should get a new trial, but he moved to deny the motion due to a “procedural flaw.” in the document.
It’s the state’s first response to a bombshell motion filed last week by Murdaugh’s attorneys, Jim Griffin and Dick Harpootlian, who accused Colleton County Court Clerk Rebecca Hill of pressuring jurors to return a guilty verdict earlier this year.
An investigation was launched by the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), which the AG said is still ongoing, but which he said has “revealed significant factual disputes related to the claims in (Murdaugh’s) motion.” Prosecutors did not elaborate on the details of the “factual disputes,” but noted Griffin and Harpootlian’s comments in numerous media interviews following the motion.
Prosecutors also said in the filing that they want Murdaugh’s defense team to prove they had no knowledge of the alleged jury tampering during the murder trial.
The response allows Murdaugh’s lawyers to correct the reported deficiencies within 10 days if they wish to proceed, adding “It may be that a stay of the appeal and a postponement for an evidentiary hearing will be necessary to adequately resolve some of the serious allegations raised. “
Last week, Murdaugh’s lawyers called for a federal investigation into whether the court clerk violated Murdaugh’s civil rights.
The motion alleges that Ms. Hill tampered with the jury because she was driven by fame and a desire to secure a book deal.
His book that tells all about the process Behind the Doors of Justice: The Murdaugh Murders was released on August 1.
Ms Hill is accused of having one-on-one chats with the jury foreman, sometimes behind closed doors in a bathroom.
She allegedly told jurors who smoked that they could not take a cigarette break until the verdict was reached. She also gave jurors business cards of journalists during the trial.
“He asked the jurors their opinions on Mr. Murdaugh’s guilt or innocence. He instructed them not to believe the evidence presented in Mr. Murdaugh’s defense, including his own testimony. He lied to the judge to remove a juror who he believed might not vote guilty. And he pressured jurors to quickly reach a guilty verdict so he could profit from it,” Murdaugh’s lawyers wrote.
Ms. Hill also allegedly told the jury to “not be fooled” by the evidence presented by the defense, to watch Murdaugh closely as he testified and to “watch his actions” and “watch his movements.” One juror said in a sworn statement that he understood that meant Murdaugh was guilty.
The clerk also accompanied three jurors to New York City where they gave television interviews after the trial.
“Clerks should help bring people to the courtroom, set up exhibits, take lunch or answer simple jury questions like finding the bathroom,” attorney John Fishwick Jr., a former U.S. attorney, told the Associated Press.
“You should never talk to a jury about the case.”
If the allegations turned out to be true, attorney Duncan Levin said The independent that Murdaugh should therefore be granted “without question” his request for a new trial.
Ms Hill has not commented publicly on the allegations. She is not currently facing any criminal charges.
The state’s response on Friday comes a day after a smiling Murdaugh appeared publicly for the first time since being sentenced to life in prison for the murders of his wife Maggie and son Paul, this time to face a series of charges of financial fraud.
At the status hearing in Beaufort County, Judge Clifton Newman set a trial date for Nov. 27.
The case will focus on the millions of dollars he stole from the family of his dead housekeeper Gloria Satterfield, part of 101 state charges in response to his alleged financial crimes.
Also appearing in court Thursday were two former friends and alleged co-conspirators in the case, former Palmetto State Bank CEO Russell Laffitte and former attorney Cory Fleming, the latter sentenced to 10 years in prison.