Murdaughs

Alex Murdaugh’s Legal Odyssey Continues: Appeals Notice Filed

Convicted killer challenges judge’s decision to deny him a new trial …

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Two months after former South Carolina supreme court chief justice Jean Toal shot down convicted killer Alex Murdaugh’s bid for a new trial, his legal team filed a notice of appeal with the Palmetto State’s court of appeals.

Toal filed her formal order denying Murdaugh’s motion for a new trial based on alleged jury tampering on April 4, 2024. In that opinion (.pdf), she concluded improper conduct with jurors was made by Colleton County clerk of court Becky Hill – but that these contacts did not rise to the level of necessitating a new trial for Murdaugh.

“Not every inappropriate comment by a member of court staff to a juror rises to the level of constitutional error,” Toal concluded. “This court simply does not believe and does not conclude that a few foolish comments by a publicity-influenced clerk of court were such that they could in any way undermine the fairness and impartiality of (a) six-week trial with its extensive evidentiary presentations, arguments from counsel and instructions from the trial court.”

Yesterday (April 11, 2024), Murdaugh’s defense attorneys — Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin — filed their notice to appeal Toal’s decision.

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Hill resigned her office in the aftermath of the scandal – which has spawned multiple ethics and criminal investigations – but has steadfastly denied improper contact with jurors during her testimony at Murdaugh’s hearing.

As for Murdaugh, he has since been sentenced to extensive jail time at the state and federal level for the financial crimes which prosecutors in the office of S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson insist was his motive for murder. 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.

The disbarred attorney, disgraced former badge-holder and confessed fraudster was sentenced to two consecutive life terms in prison on those charges on March 3, 2023.

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.’

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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.

Murdaugh’s attorneys argued that, in light of Hill’s tampering, prejudice on the part of the jury should have been presumed – and the burden of proof should have been placed on the state (per Remmer v. United States). Toal wasn’t biting.

According to her, “the overwhelming weight of South Carolina case law is clear that in either cases of alleged internal or external influence on a jury, the burden is on the defendant to show not only that the improper influence occurred but also resulting prejudice.”

Toal further concluded that even though one of the Murdaugh jurors – rechristened “Juror Z” – testified under oath that Hill tampered with the jury (and this tampering influenced the juror’s guilty verdict), she gave varying stories in her affidavit to the court and her sworn testimony. These inconsistencies raised questions as to which of the juror’s stories the court should accempt.

(Click to View)

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Toal concluded this juror’s prior affidavit attesting to the fact that she felt pressure by her colleagues was the “more accurate statement” of how she felt – even though her testimony in court certainly appeared to clear the high bar set by Toal for granting Murdaugh a new trial (with room to spare).

Toal also referenced Hill’s testimony denying that sealed exhibits from the trial were sent to a Japanese film crew – and other outlets – as being “at variance” with an exhibit entered into evidence of an email which informed the Japanese film crew of the mistaken release and stated Judge Clifton Newman ordered that they not be used.

That is one of several instances of alleged perjury for which Hill is currently under investigation.

After the filing of the notice of appeal, Murdaugh’s defense team will file an initial appellate brief with the court stating the merits of their case – after which the state will file its initial response brief. The process is not quick, but given Murdaugh’s lengthy prison sentences for financial crimes at both the state and federal level will have him incarcerated well into his golden years, there likely is no rush.

Count on our media outlet to keep tabs on this case as it makes its way through the appellate process. Also, count on us to keep our audience apprised of the potential criminal investigation into Becky Hill …

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THE NOTICE …

(S.C. Court of Appeals)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Jenn Wood (Provided)

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 jenn@fitsnews.com.

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4 comments

Avatar photo
VERITAS Top fan April 12, 2024 at 7:02 pm

Good luck, Harpo, Griff and Murdaugh. Lost cause. Happy to know Big Red will be sweating out the rest of his worthless days on earth.

Reply
MaryContrary Top fan April 12, 2024 at 11:43 pm

This looser, Murdaugh, is paying Poot & Harp from his vast hidden money. If they were not being paid handsomely, this mess would have been over for good a long time ago.

Reply
Goody3 Top fan April 13, 2024 at 10:42 am

“Murdaugh is paying Poot & Harp from his vast hidden money.” If that’s the case, why hasn’t anybody been able to track it down? Has anybody queried those 2 ‘legal eagles’ about the origins of their fee payments? Would it be unethical if those fees were knowingly accepted/deposited from AM’s ill-gotten gains?

Reply
Karen Talbert Top fan April 17, 2024 at 12:56 pm

Follow the money trail that is paying his attorneys. The are not doing this out of the goodness of their hearts!

Reply

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