This week’s big story was the hearing held Monday (January 29, 2024) at the Richland County courthouse in downtown Columbia, South Carolina to determine whether convicted killer Alex Murdaugh would receive a new trial.
The answer? No … and least not yet. But while prosecutors in the office of S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson won the battle … did they lose the war?
Research director Jenn Wood and I broke down Monday’s rollercoaster of a hearing – going over all of the key moments while walking our audience through the next steps in this saga. Jenn specifically discussed a federal case in the U.S. fourth circuit court of appeals – Barnes v. Joyner – which could figure prominently in our narrative in the event Murdaugh is not granted a new trial at the state level based on the jury tampering allegedly committed by Colleton County clerk of court Becky Hill.
In the Barnes case, a North Carolina death penalty sentence was overturned after it was determined the state court failed to properly apply the Remmer v. United States standard of “presuming prejudice” regarding improper external communications with jurors.
In other words, the fourth circuit found the North Carolina court made same error allegedly committed by former S.C. chief justice Jean Toal when she refused to hold a Remmer hearing for Murdaugh – instead applying (some say erroneously) a standard lifted from a state case with a vastly different set of facts.
Will that decision come back to bite her in the event Murdaugh’s case goes to the fourth circuit? Also … how will the changing composition of the S.C. supreme court impact Murdaugh’s chances at the state level?
A quick editorial note: Our show this week originally contained a reference to some questions we asked producers at Good Morning America about their contact with Becky Hill in the days leading up to the Murdaugh verdict last winter. We are waiting to publish that information based on the possibility of receiving a comment from the network about the questions we asked.
So far, a spokesperson for the show has not provided us with anything on the record, however …
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
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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