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Jean Toal Is Keeping Her Word On Murdaugh Transparency

Former high court chief justice moves status conference on Alex Murdaugh’s retrial hearing into the sunlight …

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In keeping with her stated commitment to maximum transparency during convicted killer Alex Murdaugh’s bid for a new trial, former South Carolina chief justice Jean Toal has moved a key status conference originally scheduled for behind closed doors into the public view.

The status conference in question was originally set for Monday, January 15, 2024 inside the statewide grand jury room – part of the office of S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson. Instead, Toal has ordered this conference be held at the Richland County courthouse on Tuesday, January 16, 2024.

Plans are currently in the works to ensure this conference – like the retrial hearing itself – will be televised.

Good for Toal. This media outlet has sparred with her on multiple occasions in the past, but her initial handling of this hottest of judicial hot potatoes has been flawless thus far – especially as it relates to her promise that the public will have access to every step of this high-profile process.

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According to court sources, Toal is slated to receive pre-hearing motions from Murdaugh’s attorneys – and from state prosecutors – over the next few days. Those motions (including one reportedly addressing alleged indiscretions by attorney/ podcaster Eric Bland, who represents several of the Murdaugh jurors) will be heard at the status conference.

Toal is also in the process of preparing a media order for the retrial hearing – which has been set for the week of January 29, 2024 and budgeted for at least three days.

Both Murdaugh’s attorneys and state prosecutors have already submitted their written arguments (here and here) ahead of the retrial hearing. Other than the drama surrounding Bland, it’s not immediately clear what other issues might be raised at the January 16 status conference.

To keep track of all the latest coverage (and view all of the source documents) related to this ongoing saga, be sure to visit our retrial hearing landing page …

(Click to View)

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Toal was tapped by current S.C. chief justice Donald Beatty on December 19, 2023 to hear the Murdaugh retrial bid following the voluntary recusal of retiring circuit court judge Clifton Newman – who presided over the original trial in Walterboro, S.C. from January 23 through March 3, 2023.

Newman took himself off the case on November 16, 2023 – a move which was first called for by our founding editor, Will Folks, back in October.

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 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.

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, however she 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. She has also admitted to plagiarizing parts of her book, a volume which has since been pulled from the shelves.

(Click to View)

Colleton County clerk of court Becky Hill. (Behind The Doors of Justice)

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. Becky Hill’s bank records have been subpoenaed in connection with the ethics investigations, while her phone was reportedly subpoenaed in connection with her son’s wiretapping charge.

According to to our sources, Jeffrey Hill’s arrest is linked 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 …

In addition to being central to the upcoming retrial hearing, the jury tampering allegations against Hill are the focus of an ongoing investigation by the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED). Murdaugh attorneys have raised doubts as to the integrity of that investigation, however, given SLED’s status as the lead investigatory agency on all of the ‘Murdaugh Murders’ crime and corruption probes.

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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 eight children.

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10 comments

SubZeroIQ January 3, 2024 at 1:18 pm

FITS, you are ruining my VERY tight schedule with your breaking stories which I cannot help following and commenting on.
But, just as you gave Retired/Active SC Chief Justice Jean Toal her due for honoring her commitment to transparency, I must give YOU your due for honoring YOUR commitment to the open-mike even when I am, and more often than not continue to be, one of your severest critics.
Let me, though, start with a comment I had made on Jean Toal’s portrait (and tried to communicate to her) as soon as it was unveiled; hopefully she and her artist will listen this time.
The portrait has beautiful color balance and does not flatter the subject out of recognition nor unflatter her out of the spite which infects some artists.
But the posing of the portrait makes it look as if SC’s “lady justice” were stabbing Jean Toal in the head with her staff. That is “staff” as in “rod.”
That could easily have been foreseen and avoided while keeping SC’s supreme court’s logo (which is legally incorrect in any event) in the background as Jean Toal wanted it. The logo should have been pushed farther back from Jean Toal’s head so that it would have been smaller and the staff (again as in “rod”) would have, at worst, landed on Jean Toal’s shoulder, not her head, and looked less criminal and, frankly, less ridiculous.
Can it be corrected now? Of course, according to even SC’s own one of two state mottos, as long as there is life there is hope.
How can it be corrected? The same way the nudes in the Sistine Chapel were made decent enough for a place of worship: by painting breeches over their private parts.
Can the logo be painted over? I suppose so; or the staff in “lady justice’s” hand alone can be painted over or angled in to move it away from the center of Jean Toal’s head where it TOTALLY destroys the viewer’s enjoyment of the portrait.
This is a long introduction to the more important comment which, God willing and Will Folks and Jean Toal permitting, I shall make about Jean Toal’s correcting her own legacy in both art and law now that she has historic chances to do so.

Reply
SubZeroIQ January 3, 2024 at 2:50 pm

Before I make even more valuable comments, I need my prize for having solved the puzzle about the ORDER appointing Jean Toal including authority for her to rule on motions to relieve counsel and motions to appoint counsel.
And, thank God, I solved that puzzle by grasping your allusion to “the Eric Bland drama.” Apparently, one or more jurors on whom Eric Bland forced his representation “for free” became uncomfortable with Eric Bland’s “advice” and wrote to CURRENT SC Chief Justice Beatty about it. The latter thought it best to have that juror/these jurors file motion(s) to relieve Eric Bland and appoint other counsel if need be.
That is a wise thing since jurors should not be made to pay out of pocket for NEUTRAL legal advice related to jury service BUT someone who is in jeopardy of criminal prosecution and cannot afford a private lawyer should be afforded a DISINTERESTED one.
SC Chief Justice Beatty, who knows my respect and affection for him, should NOT AGAIN adopt what I call “the Pontius Pilate solution”: washing his hands off the blood of the innocent.
If SITTING SC Chief Justice Beatty learned of misconduct of any lawyer OR JUDGE, SC’s Chief Justice is duty-bound to refer that lawyer or judge for investigation.
So, watch for motions by jurors to relieve Eric Bland and appoint other counsel, then mint for me a prize symbolic of my uniqueness.
Part of my unique courage makes me own something only I can give the powerful: a compliment they know is sincere.
The powerful get buttered-up all day by sycophants; but only one with my unique courage to speak truth to power can give a compliment (if and when earned) the powerful know is sincere.
Keep behaving and you might, God willing, earn another one from me.

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CongareeCatfish Top fan January 3, 2024 at 3:37 pm

“The powerful get buttered-up all day by sycophants; but only one with my unique courage to speak truth to power can give a compliment…” Seems to me you just buttered yourself up – “self sycophancy”, if you will. You would make a great reporter on NPR or MSNBC – Rachael Maddow needs to watch her back!

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SubZeroIQ January 3, 2024 at 9:27 pm

If I had no self-love, how would I know to love my neighbor as myself?
And if I gave myself a compliment, I know it is sincere because I have the courage to reprimand myself when and where appropriate.
But no one needs to “watch [his/her] back” around me, only their face because I say it to his/her face.
Also, believe it or not, I do not know who Rachael Maddow is; but NPR is my main source of news though I TOTALLY disagree with their promotion of the trans fads. I just tune that out when they talk about it.
Again, believe it or not, there are some people in this world who think for themselves and do not swallow whole what is called the right-wing agenda or the left-wing agenda. And I do love myself for my beliefs and my courage to defend those beliefs even though both sides hate me for disagreeing with large parts of their agendas.
So, you know and spare yourself any doubt about who I am and why I write what I write, I am an absolute pacificist and egalitarianist; I believe that life begins at fertilization and the death penalty is murder no matter to whom it is applied. I am totally anti-colonialist and pro-immigrant. AND I believe law, specially Anglo-American common law, without scientific foundation is a tyranny of robed word-smiths mindlessly parroting what the appointees of some king wrote. So, I am for the rule of law only if law were ruled by science. And I hope and pray to help South Carolina emerge from all those scandals surrounding the false murder convictions of Alex Murdaugh (“AM”) into a national leader in science-based law as opposed to magic-based so-called “rules of evidence” and “jury instructions” which, in my opinion free from false humility, amount to no more than “go stare at the witnesses and by the incantation of these magic instructions you will be endowed with magical powers to determine who is telling the truth and when and who is lying and when.”
How else would you translate the “standard” jury instructions “you are the sole judges of credibility” and “observe the witnesses’ demeanor”?
Where is the scientific proof that certain “demeanor” correlates with lying while other “demeanor” correlates with telling the truth?
Big challenge there; but not bigger than the scandal of what happened in what was supposed to be “the trial of the century.” That is the 21st Century, mind you.
We are told that Bubba the dog loved Maggie so much that Bubba caught a chicken and went with it to the kennels KNOWING that Paul was video-ing another dog’s tail and that AM is about to shoot Maggie.
Well, if that omniscient, prescient, and omnipotent dog Bubba knew all the foregoing and loved Maggie so much, why didn’t Bubba bite AM’s hand off or lead a pack of other dogs to scare AM out of the kennels before he supposedly shot Bubba’s beloved Maggie?
And we are told that the Murdaughs must have paid Becky Hill to screw up, tamper with the jury to reach a guilty verdict, then get discovered to entitle AM to a new trial.
Well, if the Murdaughs had Becky Hill at their beck and call, why didn’t they pay Becky Hill to make the jury reach a NOT-guilty verdict in the first place and be done with it?
Yes, I need much self-love, which extends to loving the wrongly-convicted, to be able to confront a whole state with the stupidity and tyranny of what it had been doing.
And I do thank you for reading my thoughts and commenting on them.
God bless.

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AC Top fan January 4, 2024 at 7:14 am

Anyone who espouses respect and affection for that blathering moron of a chief justice is herself a blathering moron. He is the Joe Biden of the SC judiciary and has almost single-handedly tried to destroy its credibility with his “leadership”. It will truly be a great day in South Carolina when he is forced into retirement later this year

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SubZeroIQ January 4, 2024 at 10:34 am

How racist of you to call the best chief justice South Carolina ever had so far a “blathering moron”!
And how xenophobic of you to call “herself a blathering moron” one speaks four languages, has two graduate degrees, and dazzled WHITE federal judges and state judges with her brilliant legal arguments which she won WITHOUT A LAWYER.
And yet, you would address as “honorable” WHITE, NATIVE-BORN federal judges who got their jobs SOLELY by having been BASICALLY pimps for the late Senator Strom Thurmond, who was sending his own nephew, a FEDERAL bankruptcy judge, with “disbursements” (really hush money) to Strom Thurmond’s first-born bi-racial daughter whom Strom Thurmond kept hidden and NOT “free” throughout his life.
Are you trying to tell me that those who worked in Strom Thurmond’s office for years before getting federal judgeships (and I know of at least three) did not know of Essie Mae (Thurmond) Washington’s existence? Are you trying to tell me that they would have retained their jobs or risen to federal judgeships if they had objected to Strom Thurmond’s hiding his own first-born daugther OR even exposed Strom Thurmond’s hypocrisy, which got exposed anyway after his death?
And yes, it is NOT a sin of Republicans ALONE. Former Senator John Edwards and Hunter Biden, too, each denied an out-of-wedlock daughter until DNA forced the truth out.
After those “honorable” white judges and their appointing “honorable” white senators, you brand “blathering moron[s]” those who advance the law as jurists or advocates; and you do it SOLELY based on race and ethnicity.

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Ralph Hightower Top fan January 4, 2024 at 2:03 pm

A new trial won’t change the timestamp of the Snapchat video that Paul took on his smartphone that places Alex at the dog kennels with Paul and Maggie at the time of their murders. Nor will it change the data that was recorded on Alex’s Chevrolet Suburban that recorded him speeding at double the speed limit.

The shotgun and blackout rifle were never found, but bullets found around their home and the kennels matched the ballistics from Paul and Maggie. Okay, Paul was killed with a shotgun, but the shell casings were a ballistics match also.

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SubZeroIQ January 4, 2024 at 2:23 pm

For the nth time, the State’s supposed time of death is WRONG.
PLEASE see my previous explanations.
Thanks.

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SubZeroIQ January 8, 2024 at 6:15 am

Jurist Toal needs to call ME as a court expert witness because, thank God, I solved everything; and the last pieces for me were Kenny Kinsey, Ph.D.’s talk at CrimeCon 2023 and my going back and reviewing Alex Murdaugh’s (“AM”) defense team’s January 2023 Motion for Sanctions, basically to exclude the white T-shirt AM was wearing when he discovered Maggie’s (“MKBM”) and Paul’s (“PTM”) bodies and which he gave IMMEDIATELY to responding Law Enforcement Officers when they asked for it.
Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.
And boy, did AM’s defense team get played big time by Creighton Waters and Kenny Kinsey, Ph.D.!
Kenny Kinsey, Ph.D. ends that presentation with a report of his telling Creighton to put that shirt back in the closet.
In other interviews, either Waters or Kenny reported that Waters wanted Kenny to be “the canari in the mine,” meaning let Kenny say what he thinks and leave Creighton to spin it.
I hope that Kenny reads this and has the integrity (better late than never) that Becky Hill’s co-author showed by severing ties with “Boo” after initially defending her. And I do not know whether the photo of a shirt with stains on top is THE actual AM T-shirt or a dramatization of it.
But assuming it is, Kenny says it LOOKS like spatter but he cannot say it was BLOOD spatter because the hemo-trace tested negative for HUMAN blood.
That Tom Bevel charlatan from Oklahoma had first opined it was NOT spatter, then recanted and, for thousands of dollars, opined that it was spatter and the hemo-trace was a false negative.
When Tom Bevel got exposed in AM’s defense team’s motion, and based on Kenny’s advice, Creighton gave AM’s defense a Trojan Horse: all right, the State will not introduce that shirt.
Boy did that doom AM while his defense celebrated that pyrrhic victory!
In the absence of the ACTUAL shirt, the Prosecution suggested to the jury (and to the internet world from which the jury took its “facts”) that AM somehow buried his VERY bloody clothes AND the murder weapons behind his parents’ house in Almeda and put a freshly laundered T-shirt which, according to one self-contradicting agent “smelled of laundry detergent.”
So, what is my solution which FINALLY exonerates AM and should convince ALL his haters who have any intelligence, self-respect, and/or conscience left?
Read carefully:
Bubba came in with his jaws clutching a bird that was flapping so hard MKBM thought it was “a Ginae” but PTM and AM corrected her “it’s a chicken.”
Remember the saying: “like a chicken with its head cut off”? An injured or captured bird is NOT a still one but a flapping attempting-to escape one.
Those tiny stains on top of AM’s T-shirt are bird-blood.
Proof? The LCV test for ANY blood was positive BUT the hemo-trace for HUMAN blood was negative.
And when was the hemo-trace test done? Right after AM’s August 2021 interview when it was clear that SLED had Paul’s video with Bubba and the chicken.
So, that shirt with TINY specks of NON-HUMAN blood around the neck and shoulders is THE one AM was wearing at the kennels when he extracted the bird from Bubba’s jaws then hurried to Almeda before it got too dark and back to enjoy some time with MKBM and PTM.
That means ALL AM’s clothes that day are accounted for, nothing hidden, AND the T-shirt AM gave law enforcement was the one AM wore to AND out of the kennels in the evening of 7 June 2021.
Since that T-shirt has no HUMAN blood spatter, AM could not have been the shooter.
I have previously explained why the Prosecution’s time of death is medically wrong; and a review of Kenny’s opinions strengthens my inferences that the REAL killers were two or more females with experience hunting animals but no prior military or law-enforcement experience of aiming at human beings. Those females went to Moselle armed with PTM’s previously-stolen guns and with the knowledge of PTM’s whereabouts because he was being SECRETLY followed and videotaped by Sara Capelli. That is based on the sloppiness and the strange angles of the aiming.
Who are those LIKELY females?
I hope they don’t shoot ME before I get to tell you because, by now, those females know how to shoot human beings and get away with it.
Please pray for me, y’all.

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SubZeroIQ January 8, 2024 at 10:32 am

Just confirmed, this proposed-cover-art photo of Becky Hill reading the verdict is staged: she is not wearing the same suit.
Just one more inaccuracy; and she is acting somber in the photo as if she were not gloating.
Just saying and (frankly) seeing if this comment will get through.

Reply

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