Murdaughs

Denied: Alex Murdaugh’s Bid For A New Trial Shot Down

Controversial ruling by former chief justice Jean Toal headed for appeal …

Former South Carolina supreme court chief justice Jean Toal decisively shot down convicted killer Alex Murdaugh’s bid for a new trial on Monday, determining improper conduct with jurors was made by Colleton County clerk of court Becky Hill – but that Hill’s contacts did not rise to the level of necessitating a new trial for Murdaugh.

As a result, Murdaugh’s March 2, 2023 convictions for the murder of his wife and younger son remain standing … for now.

A fourth generation scion of one of the Palmetto State’s most influential legal dynasties, Murdaugh was found guilty last winter of the graphic murders of his wife, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh, and younger son – 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh – on the family’s hunting property near Islandton, S.C. on the evening of June 7, 2021.

He was sentenced to two consecutive life terms in prison on those charges on March 3, 2023. Murdaugh has appealed those convictions, although his appeal has put been on hold for the last few months as the jury tampering allegations against Hill were investigated.

Or, covered up … depending on your perspective.

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The killings of Maggie and Paul were part of an institutionally enabled maze of multifaceted criminality collectively referred to as the ‘Murdaugh Murders’crime and corruption saga. These crimes captured international audiences and turned Murdaugh’s double homicide trial in Walterboro, S.C. last year into the Palmetto State’s ‘Trial of the Century.’

Toal’s decision to deny Murdaugh a new trial came two weeks after she controversially narrowed the scope of this inquiry – and was reached despite the absolute evisceration of Hill on the stand, an implosion reminiscent of the way Murdaugh himself imploded after he took the stand in his murder trial last year.

It also came after one of the Murdaugh jurors – rechristened “Juror Z” – testified under oath that Hill tampered with the jury and that her tampering influenced the juror’s guilty verdict. This testimony certainly appeared to not only meet – but exceed – the high bar set by Toal for granting Murdaugh a new trial under the state supreme court case she chose to use as her guide.

Another juror corroborated Juror Z’s testimony about Hill making these remarks – although they indicated the comments did not impact their decision to find Murdaugh guilty.

Nonetheless, Toal determined Hill’s tampering did not cross the line into impacting the verdict.

“I find that the answer to this question is ‘no,’” she said.

(Click to view)

Former South Carolina chief justice Jean Toal (Pool)

Still, Toal chided Hill for succumbing to the “siren call of celebrity” and making “fleeting and foolish comments” to jurors – remarks Hill’s attorneys moved quickly to cast in the best possible light.

“We respect today’s ruling by Justice Toal denying Alex Murdaugh’s motion for a new trial,” a statement attributed to Justin Bamberg and Will Lewis. “Justice Toal described Becky Hill’s alleged comments at the center of Murdaugh’s defense counsel’s argument as ‘fleeting’ and that any interaction she had with jurors in no way influenced their collective decision on the facts of the case. We agree with Justice Toal’s finding that the Colleton County jurors selected for this very complicated and lengthy trial were consummate professionals and operated within the instructions of the court.  We thank them for their service.”

The outcome of this chapter of this crime and corruption saga felt preordained, with Toal delivering a ruling less than fifteen minutes after Murdaugh’s attorneys – and prosecutors in the office of S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson – gave their closing arguments.

Wilson’s office clearly considers the matter closed – despite the massive, unresolved conflicts of interest this jury tampering investigation has exposed.

“As with all cases, the attorney general’s office and SLED’s only mission is to seek the truth and deliver justice, wherever the facts lead,” Wilson said in a statement following Toal’s decision. “It does not matter your name, position, or status, no one is above the law. We take very seriously the allegations in this situation and immediately requested an investigation, committed to discovering the truth, regardless of what it might find. After that thorough investigation, and a fair public hearing, it is clear that Alex Murdaugh’s convictions for the murders of Maggie and Paul are based solely upon the facts and evidence of the case. It is time to move on and forward.”

Wilson may want this chapter closed, but Murdaugh’s lawyers – who scored some significant points during Monday’s hearing for their appeal – clearly have no intention of going gently into that brisk, midwinter South Carolina night.

Stay tuned for much more on this case as the fallout from justice Toal’s decision reverberates across the Palmetto State and the broader true crime universe …

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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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21 comments

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The Colonel Top fan January 29, 2024 at 7:40 pm

And Toal hands down an ass beating of HarmBo and “Elick” very few expected! Not only did she deny the idiotic motion by HarmBo but she went the extra step to point out that the jury got it right in the first place. HarmBo should now have to pay court costs for the sorry case they made. Their one real witness is about as credible as Becky Hill, changing her story while being questioned as well as refuting her own sworn statement in the process.
Let’s face it, Becky Hill deserves to be impeached (fired?) for malfeasance or just plain “being stupid in office” but there was no unrefutable evidence of jury tampering, never was, never will be. “Elick” is still going to get a retrial because HarmBo will find a federal judge who is offended that the sovereign state of South Carolina chose to looks at her own case law instead of Uncle Sam’s

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Anonymous January 29, 2024 at 8:12 pm

Judge Toal’s ruling is a travesty. She forced Z to give incomplete testimony so it would support Toal’s scheme to deny the pending motion for new trial. This followed her refusal to apply the correct standard of review. This is typical South Carolina where the rule of law does not apply. I think the appellate court will reverse and order a new trial. Hopefully, it will censure Judge Toal also .

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The Colonel Top fan January 30, 2024 at 10:19 am

“Z” couldn’t keep her story straight – at the trial, it was her true verdict. In deposition one it was the other jurors who influenced her, in deposition two it was Becky, in three, it was all of the above. In Toal’s court she contradicted herself. She wasn’t credible and it’s odd that 11 other jurors said – no tampering…

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Poor Jean January 30, 2024 at 10:21 am

Don’t be so hard on hit-n-run Jean. I understand it is difficult to think clearly when you are sloshed.

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VERITAS Top fan January 29, 2024 at 8:17 pm

Two South Carolina judges, now both retired and have nothing to lose, publicly attested to the overwhelming and compelling evidence presented at Murdaugh’s double-murder trial and that the jury rightly convicted him.

Good luck with your appeal, Harpo and Griff. Your client is a killer of his wife and child, you know he’s a killer, and you know he was rightfully sentenced to two consecutive life sentences.

Thank you for your service, Judge Newman and Justice Toal.

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No Rest for the Wicked January 30, 2024 at 8:17 am

I have to say, everyone deserves a competent defense lawyer, even if you are guilty as sin you should have access to some kind of representation in court. That being said, there’s no way Dick or any of the others helping Murdaugh think he’s innocent. I can’t imagine getting any meaningful amount of sleep during the night or not have my skin crawling throughout the day in their shoes.

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Elaine Zimney Top fan January 30, 2024 at 10:25 am

It is all about money, money, money for Murdaughs attorneys! I wonder where the money is coming from to pay them?

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Mina Harrington Top fan January 29, 2024 at 8:31 pm

You missed one very important factor in Judge Toal’s decision. It concerned Juror Z. Juror Z stated that what changed her mind to vote guilty was not Becky, but the other Jurors in the room during deliberations. Judge Toal made it clear that they do not delve into jury deliberations.

One more thing: I do NOT like the fact that these attorneys feel free to go around and harass jurors after the trial has ended concerning why the voted. In fact, I find it appalling.

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Concerned Citizen Top fan January 29, 2024 at 8:43 pm

Completely agree!

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Katie Top fan January 30, 2024 at 7:57 am

Absolutely agree with that. It’s disgraceful and disgusting, but I guess I don’t expect anything else from Dick and Jim. They leave me with a sour taste in my mouth with their demeanor, press conferences and the Fox Nation documentary. My door would’ve been slammed in their faces. All the news media is going with that Hill influenced her vote (without putting an asterisk on it) and do not say anything about what the affidavit said. I want to know what she wanted to clarify.

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Elaine Zimney Top fan January 30, 2024 at 9:43 am

Totally agree!

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JustCallMeAva Top fan January 30, 2024 at 8:11 am

Yeah, yeah, yeah, tell it to the judge. . . wait, they did and they got shot down, and rightfully so. Their own star witness did not corroborate her own statement. As the judge pointed out, juries deliberate. The star witness admitted, under oath, and on the stand, that it was her fellow jurors who swayed her. So much for Dick and Jim’s “brilliant” defense. First rule of lawyering is never put a witness on the stand if you don’t know what they’re going to say. But those two clowns thought she’d stick to THEIR story, that Hill’s behavior changed her vote. I mean, it is what she said in her affidavit to them. Until she hit the stand and told the TRUTH. I don’t think the general public gets how rare a successful appeal is. Jim and Dick decided to ignore the second part of the law and go in deep on the first, saying it did not apply to them (because they’re geniuses). Too bad they met a judge who bitch-slapped them back to reality. Murdaugh is where he belongs, jail. His legal defense team should be disbarred for even attempting such a boneheaded defense but yeah, they are going to suck every last cent out of the Murdaugh family. One more thing, back when dinosaurs ruled the earth, I worked at an agency that was usually served with a copy of an appeal every single time a jail house “attorney” would attempt to get themselves a new trial. There was one noted murderer in particular who filed appeals every damn week. He had his own file drawer (full) he filed so frequently. Ultimately, none of his appeals were successful and he died in prison. I imagine this is what awaits Murdaugh’s future. After his not-so-brilliant defense team drains every last penny they can get our of the Murdaughs, he’ll begin submitting his own attempts at an appeal (written in pencil) and will fail to even so much as get an evidentiary hearing.

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Elaine Zimney Top fan January 30, 2024 at 9:47 am

Great assessment! How many appeals do these idiots get? Will they be allowed more court time until they find a judge who gives him a new trial? Insane!

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Astonished Top fan January 30, 2024 at 10:38 am

On no!!!! Not in pencil, WE provide Elick with a tablet!!!!!

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Doug Gray Top fan January 30, 2024 at 9:29 am

Disagree with any comment that ruling by Judge Toal is controversial. I thought it was well reasoned and based on the facts garnered at the hearing. Correct result.

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Elaine Zimney Top fan January 30, 2024 at 9:41 am

Fitsnews has this wrong – disappointed in Fitsnews! Judge Toal has it right! Many comments above clearly explain about Juror X testimony yesterday being different from the affidavit she signed previously. This wasn’t about Becky Hill’s behavior but about whether her comments influenced their vote!

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Elaine Zimney Top fan January 30, 2024 at 10:38 am

Becky Hill can thank Dick Poot for all of her problems and the $$$ she has had to spend to defend herself. She made mistakes, but Dick’s friend attorney McCullough found the one juror who was willing to compromise her original “guilty” verdict long after the trial ended. Just think, Dick is a S.C. Senator!

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Mack Spain Top fan January 30, 2024 at 11:00 am

Elick, knows he killed his family! SMH

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Clemson McDaniel III January 30, 2024 at 12:10 pm

The AG says its time to move on after Judge Toal’s decision. Let’s turn a blind eye and wrap this up and shove the carcass of this case away. It’s only time to move on after ALL THE CASES associated with this family are reviewed and corrected. There are a lot of people suffering still in this State from the corruption and control of the justice system by Murdaugh et al. The family lines, which the AG knows well, still control these levers. Amazing, this isn’t the story carried forward from this mess.

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Bystander Top fan January 30, 2024 at 12:37 pm

Of juror Z, you say, “that [Hill’s] tampering influenced the juror’s guilty verdict.” That’s inaccurate. Z said *she* interpreted Hill’s comment as implying he may be guilty but didn’t say it’s why she [Z] voted him guilty. In contrast, her affidavit said her decision was swayed during deliberations. Other jurors heard it but didn’t interpret it that way. Minds get changed during deliberations on a routine basis. That’s what they’re for. Also, it’s possible for tampering to occur without it working, which is what may have happened here and why the conviction can stand AND Hill can be found guilty of tampering.

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George Johnson Top fan January 30, 2024 at 6:42 pm

Looks like FITS is all alone considering Justice Toal’s ruing “controversial.”

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