(WatchDogReport.org) – Renowned South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh was found guilty in March 2023 of shooting his wife and son in 2021. His lawyers asked for a new trial, claiming in September that Colleton County Court Clerk Rebecca “Becky” Hill had discussed Murdaugh’s guilt with the jury and pushed them to return a guilty verdict as soon as possible.
The jury returned to court to respond to the accusations and answer specific queries from Judge Jean Toal, the South Carolina Supreme Court’s retiring chief judge.
The testimony revealed that one of the jurors — referred to by the court as “Juror Z” — who had initially ruled Murdaugh guilty had been swayed by Hill. However, she claimed in an earlier declaration that she was also under pressure from other jurors.
Toal described Juror Z’s testimony as ” ambivalent” and stated that pressure from other jurors is part of the “normal give-and-take of jury deliberations.” When questioned by prosecutor Creighton Waters, Hill — who testified after the jurors — gave clear answers. Hill said she didn’t discuss anything regarding the case with any jurors.
Toal stated that while she didn’t think Hill’s story was “wholly credible,” she didn’t believe that foolish comments called for a new trial.
Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman, who presided over Murdaugh’s murder trial and sentenced him to two consecutive life terms, recused himself and assigned Toal to monitor the proceedings. On March 2, 2023, Hill read the jury’s judgments in her elected capacity as court clerk. The world watched the livestream of what was frequently referred to as “the trial of the century.” Podcasts and television shows increased public interest in the situation of the affluent family.
Early in the trial, Toal’s patience was tested when she discovered from the bailiff that several jurors were using their iPhones to watch a live stream of the proceedings in the jury chamber, where they could hear Juror Z’s evidence. Each juror she questioned briefly about it stated it had no bearing on their evidence when she brought it up.
Clad in an orange prison uniform with a white T-shirt on top, Murdaugh took notes and conferred with his attorneys, occasionally exchanging smiles and laughs. As Toal gave her verdict, he remained silent.
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