Clerk of court breaks silence in jury tampering allegations in Alex Murdaugh murder trial
Colleton County Clerk of Court Becky Hill denies improper conversations with jurors as part of the state's response to Alex Murdaugh's motion for a new trial.
The Colleton County clerk of court responded for the first time today to jury tampering allegations made by Alex Murdaugh’s defense team as the convicted killer seeks a new trial.
In an affidavit made public Tuesday, Becky Hill said “numerous misrepresentations and false statements” have been made. She addressed the allegations one by one, saying among other things: she did not tell jurors “not to be fooled” by evidence presented by the defense; she did not have private conversations with jurors about the trial; and she did not tell jurors before deliberations, “this shouldn’t take us long."
A defense motion filed in September says otherwise. It cites a handful of jurors who say they felt Hill pressured them to reach a guilty verdict and requests a new trial.
Hill’s sworn statement is part of the state’s 25-page response Tuesday to Murdaugh’s motion alleging jury tampering. The state argues the motion should be dismissed, saying “never does the law permit highly motivated convicts to put their own jury on trial." It calls the defense allegations part of an attempt “to craft a breathtaking conspiracy narrative.”
The response also includes interviews SLED conducted with nine of the 12 jurors who deliberated. None reported feeling pressured to reach a guilty verdict. The state says the other three declined to be interviewed.
Investigators also interviewed court staff. None reported hearing improper conversations or comments as alleged by the defense.
Last month, the SC Court of Appeals sided with the Murdaugh’s team, saying they can ask a judge to throw out his convictions and life sentences for a new trial. The decision opened the door for an evidentiary hearing in which witnesses, like jurors and Hill, would have to testify under oath.
The state argues in its response, a judge, not attorneys, should be charged with questioning. And it says such questioning further burdens jurors already tasked with a difficult job.
As for which judge would hold an evidentiary hearing, that has yet to be decided. The defense has asked the state Supreme Court to remove Judge Clifton Newman, who presided over the murder trial. Attorneys argue he’s not impartial and could be a witness to the jury tampering allegations.