In the onslaught of information, allegations and affidavits submitted as part of the bombshell motion for a new trial for convicted killer Alex Murdaugh, one mystery has stumped those closely following this high-profile case – the origins of a Facebook post that led to the decisive dismissal of a juror rumored to be sympathetic to Murdaugh.
Harpootlian and Griffin’s original motion for a new trial revolved around the circumstances surrounding the dismissal of the so-called “egg juror” – who has thus far only been identified by her juror number. Arguably the most concerning portion of the motion was the allegation that Colleton County clerk of court Becky Hill “invented a story about a Facebook post to remove a juror she believed might not vote guilty.”
The existence of this Facebook post – allegedly made to the ‘Walterboro Word of Mouth’ group in mid-February – is central to the jury tampering motion presented by the defense. During the dismissal of the juror in question, no one was able to present the actual post to S.C. circuit court judge Clifton Newman. The only post presented in court was an apology post dated February 16, 2023 from a man with the same name as the juror’s ex-husband.
Was either post authored by the juror’s ex-husband, though? No.
Did the man who made the post ever visit the Facebook group where it was made? No … at least not according to his sworn statement, which was included in a new defense motion filed Monday morning by Murdaugh’s attorneys.
According to the motion (.pdf), the man – Timothy Stone of Odum, Georgia – is “not a member of the Facebook group Walterboro Word of Mouth and (has) never posted anything on this group’s social media page.”
Did the original post – or its subsequent apology post – have anything whatsoever to do with the Murdaugh trial?
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As noted in our previous coverage, 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.
Murdaugh’s attorneys are now buttressing their argument that the post was never found because it never existed in the first place.
BACKGROUND ON 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.
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 …
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THE FACEBOOK POST …
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 the ‘Walterboro Word of Mouth’ Facebook group. The post was purportedly 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 said she asked Hill to show her the post, but according to her Hill would not – or could not – produce it.
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 agents of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) – who are currently investigating the jury tampering allegations – and Colleton County sheriff’s office deputies went 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.
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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 law enforcement about it.
As part of the exhibits to their original 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.
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.
THE AFFIDAVIT …
The big questions remaining after the original motion for a new trial was centered around this mysterious Facebook post. 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?
According to Griffin and Harpootlian’s supplemental motion, the man whose apology post on Facebook has been splashed across the internet for the past week has confirmed in an affidavit the post had nothing to do with anyone associated with this case. The post was made “in response to a private argument about Mr. Stone’s wife’s aunt ‘sticking her nose in my business.'”
According to Stone’s affidavit, he “terrible” about that post and deleted it and posted an apology the next day.
Which brings us back to two fundamental questions … Why did Hill allegedly misrepresent the post to judge Newman? And, was there ever an original Facebook post from Stone in the ‘Walterboro Word of Mouth’ group?
It appears the defense is working hard to verify the origin of the post Hill claims she saw on the Facebook page. If it is not located, will it be enough to warrant the guilty verdict being vacated and a new trial ordered?
Stay tuned …
THE MOTION …
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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