Murdaughs

Murdaugh Jury Tampering Hearing: Status Conference Held

Former chief justice moves quickly on high-profile double homicide hearing …

A mere two days after she was tapped by South Carolina chief justice Donald Beatty to oversee convicted killer Alex Murdaugh’s bid for a new trial, former Palmetto State chief justice Jean Toal held her first status conference on the high-profile case.

Toal reportedly held a teleconference on Thursday with Murdaugh’s lawyers and prosecutors in the office of S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson – who successfully prosecuted the internationally infamous former Lowcountry lawyer for the murders of his wife and younger son earlier this year in Colleton County.

Wilson’s office also secured a plea deal on a multitude of financial crimes committed by Murdaugh against former clients, friends, fellow attorneys and family members – crimes its prosecutors have long insisted were his motive for committing the murders.

After a six-week trial in Walterboro, S.C. last winter, Murdaugh was convicted on March 2, 2023 of killing his wife, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh, and younger son, 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh, on June 7, 2021 at Moselle – the family’s hunting property. The following day – March 3, 2023 – he was sentenced to consecutive life terms for those crimes by circuit court judge Clifton Newman.

Those sentences are now in jeopardy, however, due to seismic allegations of jury tampering against embattled Colleton County clerk of court Becky Hill, whose office administered the trial in Walterboro, S.C.

Indeed, Toal has been assigned to handle case after Newman was obligated to recuse himself given his status as a witness to the tampering allegations (and in light of post-trial statements in which he articulated a bias against Murdaugh).

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The purpose of Thursday’s status conference? To start planning for a highly anticipated evidentiary hearing into the jury tampering allegations against Hill. According to Murdaugh attorneys Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin, Hill “betrayed her oath of office for money and fame” – pressuring jurors to find Murdaugh guilty so she could sell copies of her book, Behind the Doors of Justice.

“The clerk of court tampered with the jury by advising them not to believe Murdaugh’s testimony and other evidence presented by the defense, pressuring them to reach a quick guilty verdict, and even misrepresenting critical and material information to the trial judge in her campaign to remove a juror she believed to be favorable to the defense,” the complaint (.pdf) filed by Harpootlian and Griffin alleged.

Hill has vehemently denied the allegations – and as our audience will recall, initial indications pointed to her denials having some merit. Since then, however, Hill and her allies have been caught in multiple lies related to her version of events – as well as ham-fisted attempts to cover up those lies.

More ominously for Hill, she has found herself at the center of multiple ethics investigations, while her son – former Colleton County information technology director Jeffrey “Colt” Hill – has been criminally charged with one count of wiretapping. Jeffrey Hill’s arrest is reportedly related to the investigation into his mother, which S.C. fourteenth circuit solicitor Duffie Stone recently asked Wilson to refer to a statewide grand jury.

Wilson has accepted jurisdiction over the Hill cases, but has yet to say whether he will refer the case to a grand jury – or hand it off to another prosecutor.

We believe he should do both …

What was decided at Thursday’s status conference? Sources familiar with the deliberations are declining to comment on specific rulings out of respect for justice Toal, however we have been reliably informed the evidentiary hearing will take place sometime prior to mid-February, and that Toal intends to provide the same level of transparency that Newman allowed during his management of the cases.

Sources also indicated the upcoming evidentiary hearing – which we are told could consume three full days – is likely to take place in Richland County as opposed to Colleton County.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available …

UPDATE |

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

(Travis Bell Photography)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina and before that he was a bass guitarist and dive bar bouncer. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven (soon to be eight) children.

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2 comments

Avatar photo
VERITAS Top fan December 22, 2023 at 9:00 pm

What do you have against the original Creighton Waters prosecution team? Good grief, get a frickin’ grip on reality, FITSNEWS.

Reply
J Monday Top fan December 24, 2023 at 9:41 am

I have deep concerns about an 80 year old retired S.C. Judge for many reasons. However, if she is fair, impartial & lucid, she will quickly rule to dismiss the motion for a new trial. Whatever Mickey Mouse was going on at the courthouse between Becky Hill’s son, Ms Utsey, or even Becky Hill herself has thus far proven to be absolutely unrelated to anything Murdaugh. There is also zero evidence of jury tampering. The catalyst for that allegation is a silly woman who could not obey a Judges charge not to run her mouth about the trial & was dismissed from the jury. That & the defense team (plus Joe McCullough) for team Murdaugh. Fits-please stop creating more innuendo & drama. You are feeding the beast & that is terrible journalism.

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