A bombshell motion dropped earlier this week by defense attorneys representing convicted killer Alex Murdaugh raised serious questions about the integrity of the double murder trial that landed the disbarred attorney/ admitted fraudster behind bars for the rest of his life.
Hill’s alleged motive? According to the filing, she was driven by a desire for fame and fortune – as evidenced by her recently released book, which gave readers a behind the scenes glimpse into the trial that fascinated a nation.
‘Behind The Doors of Justice‘ promised “the true story of the Alex Murdaugh double murder trial from a courthouse insider who witnessed it all,” according to Nancy Grace, who was a fixture at the trial.
However, that “insider” content is now being used to tell a different story – and this chapter in the saga begins with the author being accused of attempting to influence the decisions of the jury.
The allegations against Hill largely fell into three categories: Discussing testimony and evidence with jurors, fabricating information that resulted in the removal of one juror the same day deliberations began, and rushing a verdict by removing smoke breaks and warning jurors of their impending sequestration.
The motive, according to the defense team, was again so the clerk could write a book and make a lot of money.
Citing South Carolina law, the motion stated that “no public official, public member, or public employee may knowingly use his official office, membership, or employment to obtain an economic interest for himself.”
While this may seem ironic (or even rich) coming from a powerful lawyer/ legislator like Dick Harpootlian, the point is that as an elected official in a position of administrative responsibility over the operations of the court – Hill may have crossed a line in writing such a book.
“The issue here is that an elected state official engaged in intentional misconduct — deliberately violating a defendant’s constitutional right to a fair trial before an impartial jury — to secure financial gain for herself,” the motion alleged.
In an interview with Court TV, Neil R. Gordon, the co-author of Hill’s book, said he was upset at the suggestion Hill was motivated by greed. While the defense motion alleged “she got her book deal” – seeming to suggest a publishing contract and a large advance check – that would be inaccurate, according to Gordon. He explained that the team behind the book paid $30,000 to self-publish it because they “felt this was an interesting story to tell.”
A portion of those funds were for media attorneys to review the book.
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“No clerk of court has ever really written a book to just explain minute by minute how intense a trial situation is and how reverent you have to be to the truth and to law,” Gordon said.
Regarding claims that Hill discussed the case with jurors as they visited Moselle, Gordon said the jurors were silent at the scene of the crime – as ordered by circuit court judge Clifton Newman.
As for the book’s origin, it came about as the suggestion of Gordon’s wife – Melissa Brinson Gordon – who met Hill during the trial and introduced the idea of collaborating on a book. In that fateful moment when Gordon’s wife met the clerk, Hill was observing someone who she was concerned was trying to photograph the jurors – and Melissa helped her find that person and confirm they were not with the media.
The book is so closely tied to the allegations against Hill that excerpts are used in the filing to make the case for jury tampering. One chapter in particular is devoted to the jury experience …
“Working with jurors is always a unique experience, and like with any jury we had some behind-the-scenes happenings with our jurors, the alternates, and the originals for the Murdaugh trial.”
Continuing, a few paragraphs later, the chapter describes some information germane to the filing, notably the controversial dismissal of the so-called “egg juror” – a pivotal decision which likely swung the verdict from a hung jury to ‘guilty.’
RELATED | EGG JUROR DOESN’T WANT TO TALK
“This juror worked on a monkey farm in the Lowcountry and she drove Judge Newman bananas one weekend – pun intended! Through the Facebook page, “Walterboro Word of Mouth’ about 20,000 followers saw this juror’s ex-husband post about how she was talking way too much to friends and family about the case. Many people became aware of the situation after on Friday, February 24, and it was brought to the attention of Judge Newman. I typically didn’t have the time or energy to watch any media coverage of the trial, but on that Friday night, I scrolled through the “Walterboro Word of Mouth” social media feed and saw the post from the ex-husband, but he didn’t mention the juror’s name or her juror number.”
Beginning as it does with a lighthearted banana/ monkey pun, the story as told in Hill’s book doesn’t speak of the complexities of the situation – or hint at the errors made.
The truth? This juror had no contact with her ex-husband for more than a decade. When she was told of the Facebook post, she became very afraid he was stalking her. In the past, it had been necessary for her to obtain restraining orders against him from three counties. The fear imposed on her – due to her past trauma – ended up being inflicted on her unnecessarily. Why? Because there was never such a Facebook post from her ex.
At some point, the juror attempted to explain that the name was wrong, the photo was wrong – that this wasn’t his Facebook identity but rather someone else’s. If there ever was such a post, it didn’t come from her ex-husband.
Hill’s book doesn’t address any of that. Instead, it reports that the post was “taken down and replaced with an apology from the juror’s ex-husband.”
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The problem? The apology post was not from the juror’s ex-husband – it was from a completely different Facebook user – with no reference as to what this individual was apologizing for. Again, there is absolutely no evidence the original Facebook post ever existed.
The defense’s theory? Hill fabricated the entire story so the juror would be removed. Obviously, that would represent a significant escalation from merely making inappropriate or leading comments to jurors.
Days after the clerk reported seeing the Facebook post, the court received an email about the same juror. She had a rental property, and a coworker of one of her tenants alleged she that she had been discussing the trial and expressing her opinion about it.
In one of the more disturbing parts of the defense motion, the egg lady’s affidavit described how her tenants were allegedly awakened by agents of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) late at night, taken outside, separated, and questioned in SLED vehicles with dash cams recording their interviews. Afterwards, the couple received subpoenas to report at the courthouse the following day. According to the affidavit, they were held at the courthouse for nine hours – from 9:00 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST – then presented with affidavits to sign, which they did – “without reading them.”
In the aftermath of these events, the “egg lady” was removed from the jury. Her affidavit is key to the defense motion as her removal came on the morning of March 2, 2023 – the same day the jury would return a guilty verdict.
As this news outlet reported at the time, the “egg juror” – had she remained on the panel – would have likely wound up keeping the state from securing convictions against Murdaugh.
“She was dug in,” a source familiar with the deliberations confirmed. “She said he was ‘not guilty’ and there was nothing anyone could do to change her mind.”
“She would have hung the jury,” another source confirmed.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Callie Lyons is a journalist, researcher, and author whose investigative work can be found in media outlets, publications, and documentaries all over the world – most recently in the Parisian newspaper Le Monde and a German documentary for ProSieben. Lyons also appears in Citizen Sleuth – a 2023 documentary exploring the genre of true crime.
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