Charleston attorney John H. Tiller — who represented Alex Murdaugh in the 2019 boat crash case — died early Monday after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.
Tiller, who was known for his extraordinary kindness and indisputable work ethic, was in the courtroom right up until the end.
“He was a good friend and a good attorney,” said Allendale attorney Mark Tinsley of Gooding and Gooding. Tinsley represents the family of Mallory Beach, who was killed in a boat crash more than three years ago.
Alex Murdaugh’s son Paul, who was 19 at the time, was charged with three felony counts of boating under the influence in the crash. The boat belonged to Alex Murdaugh, who is a co-defendant in the case along with his son Buster, whose license Paul used to purchase alcohol that night.
Tiller had been a member of Alex and Buster’s legal team in the case since June 2019.
After Alex Murdaugh’s roadside shooting incident in September — and after his former law firm Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth and Detrick said he had stolen millions from them and clients — Murdaugh’s team dwindled, leaving just Tiller.
“John didn’t make it personal,” Tinsley said of Tiller’s reputation in the courtroom. “He had a very realistic, pragmatic view of the world. No matter the case, he did what he could do to get it resolved.”
Tiller, 60, graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1987 and began his legal career with Sinkler & Boyd — now Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd.
“A pre-eminent trial attorney and mediator, John was held in the highest regard by clients, the judiciary and other lawyers, both plaintiff and defense. His success was evident in the number of recognitions bestowed upon him by numerous legal publications and organizations. He was named ‘South Carolina Litigators of the Year’ in 2012 by Benchmark Litigation, received the ‘Worthy Adversary Award’ in 2016 by the South Carolina Association for Justice and was recognized with the ‘Gold Compleat Lawyer Award’ in 2018 by the University of South Carolina School of Law Alumni Council,” according to his obituary.
He is survived by his wife of 33 years, Dana R. Tiller, as well a “numerous godchildren, nephews, nieces and cousins, all of whom gave him great joy.”
Several messages from attorneys across the state have been posted online expressing their love and appreciation of Tiller.
“Every time you shared a room with John he would make you smile. I always enjoyed working on any case where he was involved. He was the consummate professional who lived life to the fullest,” Brandon Dawson wrote.
Services for Tiller will be live streamed here starting at 11 a.m. June 3. The family will receive guests in the Parish Hall following the service. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to Prince George Winyah Church, 301 Screven Street, Georgetown, S.C. 29440
Tinsley said Tiller was know for his sincerity and sense of humor. He was not only saddened by the loss of his friend, but also of a man he considered to be a very worthy opponent in the courtroom.
“I hate that he didn’t get to finish this case,” he said about the Murdaugh case. “I will always regret he didn’t get to finish this case …”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Liz Farrell is the new executive editor at FITSNews. She was named 2018’s top columnist in the state by South Carolina Press Association and is back after taking a nearly two-year break from corporate journalism to reclaim her soul. Email her at [email protected] or tweet her @ElizFarrell.
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