The six-week murder trial of convicted killer Alex Murdaugh – the main event of the ‘Murdaugh Murders‘ crime and corruption saga – included plenty of bizarre moments and memorable testimonies from witnesses. The trial was a global sensation even before it began due to the savage nature of the crimes, the web of corruption they exposed and the remarkable cast of characters the proceedings introduced to the world … including certain witnesses who wound up not taking the stand.
One of the most surprising – and significant – moments of the trial came on its final morning when a member of the jury was dismissed by S.C. circuit court judge Clifton Newman. This dismissal – pivotal then and now – occurred shortly before Murdaugh attorney Jim Griffin began his closing argument on behalf of the defense.
Thus began the strange tale of the ‘egg juror,’ who has become a key figure in Murdaugh’s bid for a second trial.
A recent sworn affidavit by the ‘egg juror’ – submitted as part of the bombshell motion filed by Griffin and fellow Murdaugh attorney Dick Harpootlian – has revived the mystery surrounding her dismissal and raised fresh questions as to whether it was conducted legitimately.
Harpootlian’s motion – filed with the South Carolina court of appeals this Tuesday (September 5, 2023) demanded a new trial for Murdaugh on the basis of alleged jury tampering by Colleton County clerk of court Becky Hill. A huge component of their argument – and arguably the most troubling of its allegations against Hill – revolved around the circumstances surrounding the egg juror’s dismissal.
THE DISMISSAL …
On the morning of March 2, 2023 – the morning after lead prosecutor Creighton Waters delivered a compelling closing argument on behalf of the state – Newman removed the juror in question for allegedly having improper conversations with three individuals about the case. The juror then allegedly lied to Newman about these communications, which were in violation of his orders not to discuss the case with anyone.
Newman removed her “in order to protect the integrity of the process.”
“You have been by all accounts a great juror,” Newman said, telling her she had been “attentive to the case.”
Newman added he was “not suggesting you intentionally did anything wrong” – and thanked the juror for her service.
As she was preparing to leave the packed courtroom, Newman asked the juror whether she had anything remaining in the jury room.
“A dozen eggs,” she replied.
“A dozen eggs?” Newman responded, smiling.
“You want to leave the eggs or take the eggs?” the judge asked the juror, who indicated her desire to take them.
“Mister bailiff: Can you retrieve from the jury room her dozen eggs?” Newman said.
The collective crowd in the courtroom laughed and in that moment, juror number 785 became known as the ‘egg juror’.
Here, in its entirety, is the “egg juror” exchange as it unfolded on that fateful Thursday morning …
(Click to view)
As initially reported by our founding editor Will Folks – a report received by a great deal of speculation – the removal of this particular juror paved the way for a guilty verdict hours later.
“She was dug in,” a source familiar with the deliberations confirmed to Folks. “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.
Not only were our sources accurate, we now know there may be more to the ‘egg juror’ story …
WHAT HAPPENED …
According to the affidavit from the dismissed juror, during the trial of Murdaugh in late February of 2023 (the exact date was not provided), Becky Hill summoned her to her office – alone – claiming someone had emailed her about a post made in a local Facebook group called ‘Walterboro Word of Mouth.’ The post was allegedly made by her ex-husband, Tim Stone, and claimed the two were drinking together and she had made comments to him about her opinion regarding Murdaugh’s guilt or innocence.
The problem with this account? According to the juror’s affidavit, she had not seen her ex-husband in ten years. The juror says she asked Hill to show her the post, but according to her Hill would not – or could not – show it to her.
The juror said Hill then proceeded to ask her if she was inclined to vote guilty or not guilty. The juror responded she had not made up her mind yet and wanted to hear all the evidence before deciding.
According to her affidavit, the juror alleged that later this same day Hill told her S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) agents and Colleton County sheriff’s office personnel had gone to her ex-husband’s home and he confirmed he made the post. Seeing as this juror had required restraining orders against her ex-husband in the past, she was obviously concerned.
The juror claimed Hill reassured her by informing her she would “reinstate” a prior restraining order against him.
The problem? In addition to the egg juror’s sworn statement, Murdaugh’s attorneys also submitted an affidavit from her ex-husband in which he confirmed he never made the Facebook post in question – and was never contacted by any law enforcement or investigative personnel about it.
As part of the exhibits to their motion, Murdaugh’s attorneys also included excerpts from a transcript of a conference held inside judge Newman’s chambers on February 28, 2023 – two days before the verdicts – during which Newman discussed the Facebook post with the juror. In this transcript, the juror told the judge that she gave Hill full access to her Facebook account and was unaware of any Facebook post made by her ex-husband until Hill informed her of it.
She reiterated she had not seen her ex-husband in ten years and that the only time she had spoken with him was via phone to discuss their son.
She also told Newman that – according to Hill – the post had been deleted and her ex-husband had informed whoever spoke to him about it (she didn’t know who that was) that he had made the post while drunk and subsequently removed it.
Newman then asked her if she had made up her mind regarding Murdaugh’s guilt or innocence and she responded, “I haven’t. I was trying to wait on closing arguments because those are usually pretty good.”
She was then dismissed from the conference.
After the juror was dismissed, Waters told the judge, “I got a name now.”
“A name, Clifford Dandridge, Bee Street,” Newman responded “Oh boy.”
At this point, Newman referred back to Hill’s conversations with the juror outside of his presences.
“I’m not too pleased about the clerk interrogating a juror as opposed to coming to me and bringing it to me,” he said.
(Click to view)
On February 27, 2023 – three days before the verdicts – a co-worker of one of the juror’s tenants at a rental property emailed the court stating the tenant said her landlord was a juror and that she had expressed an opinion about the case while delivering a refrigerator to the property more than a week earlier.
In her affidavit, the juror stated she did in fact deliver a refrigerator to a rental property she owned on February 18, 2023. The tenants of this property were Clifford Dandridge and Deborah Webb. Webb is an employee of Domino’s Pizza, and the juror stated that whomever sent this email was a co-worker of Webb’s from Domino’s.
She further stated she was unaware whether Webb made this statement to a co-worker – or if the co-worker actually heard this statement directly. After her dismissal, she asked Dandridge and Webb about it.
Their claims, if true, are deeply concerning.
In her sworn statement, the juror said Dandridge and Webb told her the affidavits they signed were prepared by the prosecution and were not consistent with what they told law enforcement. According to them, SLED officers arrived at their home at 10:00 p.m. EST after they were asleep, removed them from the residence and put them in separate vehicles – at which point they began interrogating them.
According to the juror, Dandridge told SLED she had not said anything regarding Murdaugh’s guilt or innocence. SLED agents allegedly returned thirty minutes later with subpoenas requiring Dandridge and Webb to appear in court the following day.
(Click to view)
Pursuant to the subpoenas, two appeared in court at 9:00 a.m. EST. According to the juror’s affidavit, they were held there for nine hours – at which point SLED agents appeared with typed affidavits purporting to be their statements from the prior night. They were told to sign the statements and did so – without reading them, allegedly.
On March 1, 2023 another conference was held in the judge’s chambers in which the alleged Facebook post was discussed. The juror does not appear to have been present during this conference.
Newman told those present he wanted to revisit the Facebook post and asked Hill to tell him about it. Hill explained to the court she was on Facebook perusing on Friday evening – which would have been February 24, 2023 – and saw
a post from the juror’s ex-husband. The post alleged his ex-wife was identifying herself as a member of the Murdaugh jury and sharing information about her views on the case.
The ex-husband further accused the juror of being known for “talking way too much.”
Newman asked Hill how she was able to deduce which juror the alleged Facebook post referred to. Hill explained that she heard there was an email earlier that week (from the co-worker of the tenant) and assumed the two went together. She discussed hNewman’s request – she went back to Facebook to find the original post from the Facebook group and was unable to locate it.
Hill told the judge she found the ex-husband’s name and found a post apologizing for his post explaining he was drunk and “satan” made him do it.
This apology post – dated February 16, 2023 – was included as an exhibit in the defense’s motion for a new trial. According to the juror’s affidavit, she was unaware of the “apology” post until Hill’s book was released. When she reviewed it, she stated definitively that the individual who made it was not her ex-husband and that the post did not originate from her ex-husband’s account.
NOTE: During the February 28, 2023 conference in the judge’s chambers, the juror DID tell the court that she was told by Hill that someone spoke to her ex-husband and explained he was drunk and removed the post. This discrepancy was not noticed by the court – nor mentioned by anyone involved in the March 1, 2023 hearing. Other than that, no one from the defense or prosecution inferred any conversation was had with the ex-husband of the juror.
“A CONTINUUM OF A CALAMITY …”
As noted above, when the ‘egg juror’ was dismissed on March 2, 2023, it was completely unrelated to the alleged Facebook post. Judge Newman told the court that both Dandridge and Webb had come into court for a hearing in chambers – in the presence of prosecutors and defense attorneys – and “waffled” on the nature or extent of their contact with the egg juror, thus conflicting with the statements contained their affidavits. Newman then said prosecutors had provided him with a recorded interview with the jurors which confirmed the juror in question had contact with at least three individuals regarding the case.
The identity of those individuals was not made known.
Perhaps they are among the members of the jury who have retained legal representation in the aftermath of the latest allegations?
After the dismissal of the egg juror, Harpootlian expressed concerns on behalf of the defense. He told the judge that while he accepted his decision to dismiss the juror, he wanted it noted for the record that the witnesses used to impeach her (Dandridge and Webb) were interviewed by agents of SLED — including one who was a witness for the prosecution and another who was an investigating officer in the Murdaugh homicides.
Blasting SLED for its failure to recuse itself from the case, Harpootlian made it clear he doubted both the veracity of the agency’s findings as well as the integrity of the investigation itself.
”This is just a continuum of a calamity of errors,” Harpootlian said.
The existence of the Facebook post allegedly made to the local Walterboro group appears critical. It was not uncommon during the trial for individuals to send screenshots of posts that referenced the trial to FITSNews – and a post of this nature was never sent. Despite extensive research, we’ve been unable to find a post in this group – or anywhere on Facebook – from anyone named Tim or Timothy Stone related to the Murdaugh trial.
We’ve also been unable to locate any individual with that name who was a member of that group – or has participated in its discussions.
Did that post ever exist? If not, why did Hill tell the court (and the juror) that it did? She indicated in both court transcripts and in her book that she saw it while scrolling through the group on February 24, 2023 – but at no point in time was anyone able to provide a screenshot of it.
While the post wasn’t resulted in the egg juror’s dismissal, it’s existence (or lack thereof) will be critical to Hill’s defense against the jury tampering allegations which have now been leveled against her. If it didn’t exist, defense attorneys court argue she lied as an officer of the court. It matters in light of the potential for new trial in that it’s existence (or lack of) provides intention behind the actions of a court official during a trial.
Was it a statement made in error? Or an intentional lie?
If the dismissed juror’s affidavit is proven credible, Hill’s alleged conversation with her days before her dismissal presents a problem as well. If Hill indeed asked the juror during that conversation her opinion of Murdaugh’s guilt or innocence, that presents another huge issue. During the course of a trial, according to law, “jurors should not discuss the case with their family, friends or any lawyer, party or witness in the case, nor should they allow it to be discussed in their presence.”
But the most important question is whether or not what happened could have – or would have – changed the outcome of the trial. With that in mind, the most important part of the affidavit from the ‘egg juror’ lies in one statement:
(Click to view)
(Via: S.C. Court of Appeals)
The other question posed initially by Harpootlian in court during the juror’s dismissal remains relevant as the scope of this inquiry expands. Is SLED’s ongoing investigation relating to the alleged misconduct of jurors and/ or court officials appropriate? The law enforcement agency – which has led all of the ‘Murdaugh Murders’ investigations – clearly has a vested interest in the outcome of both the original trial and the potential for a new trial.
Also, based on the allegations contained in the egg juror’s affidavit, SLED agents have been accused of potential misconduct as it relates to the interrogation of her tenants.
How is the agency supposed to investigate the conduct of its own personnel?
With these considerations in mind, should SLED really be the agency investigating these allegations?
Stay tuned to FITSNews as we continue to research and report on the absolute madness that has ensued in the aftermath of the nuclear detonation from Murdaugh’s defense team this week …
THE AFFIDAVIT …
(Via: S.C. Court of Appeals)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Jenn Wood is FITSNews’ incomparable research director. She’s also the producer of the FITSFiles and Cheer Incorporated podcasts and leading expert on all things Murdaugh/ South Carolina justice. A former private investigator with a criminal justice degree, evildoers beware, Jenn Wood is far from your average journalist! A deep dive researcher with a passion for truth and a heart for victims, this mom of two is pretty much a superhero in FITSNews country. Did we mention she’s married to a rocket scientist? (Lucky guy!) Got a story idea or a tip for Jenn? Email her at [email protected].
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