Murdaughs

Murdaugh Saga: Controversial Juror Records Remain Sealed

What is the state hiding?

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Central to the jury tampering allegations which many believe compromised the state of South Carolina’s guilty verdicts against notorious convicted killer Alex Murdaugh was the saga of Juror 785.

You remember her, right? The “egg juror.”

At the conclusion of a six-week, internationally watched trial, a Colleton County jury unanimously found Murdaugh guilty 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 only reason these verdicts were secured? The egg juror – who did not believe Murdaugh was guilty – was removed from the panel just hours before the guilty verdicts were handed down by S.C. circuit court judge Clifton Newman.

Her removal from the jury was decisive.

“She was dug in,” a source familiar with the deliberations told me at the time. “She said he was ‘not guilty’ and there was nothing anyone could do to change her mind.”

Support FITSNews … SUBSCRIBE!

***

“She would have hung the jury,” another source confirmed.

Newman removed the juror in question for allegedly having improper conversations with three individuals about the case. The juror then allegedly lied to Newman about these communications, which were in violation of his orders not to discuss the case with anyone.

Newman said he removed the egg juror “in order to protect the integrity of the process.” However, he praised her as she was dismissed.

“You have been by all accounts a great juror,” Newman said, telling the egg juror she had been “attentive to the case.”

Newman added he was “not suggesting you intentionally did anything wrong” – and thanked her for her service.

As she was preparing to leave the packed courtroom, Newman asked the juror whether she had anything remaining in the jury room.

“A dozen eggs,” she replied.

“A dozen eggs?” Newman responded, smiling.

“You want to leave the eggs or take the eggs?” the judge asked the juror, who indicated her desire to take them.

“Mister bailiff: Can you retrieve from the jury room her dozen eggs?” Newman said.

The collective crowd in the courtroom laughed and in that moment, juror number 785 became known as the ‘egg juror.’

***

RELATED | FACEBOOK POST TIED TO EGG JUROR EXPOSED AS FABRICATION

***

What transpired behind the scenes, though, was no laughing matter. Nor is the ongoing effort to keep it under wraps.

On September 5, 2023 – six months after the verdicts were announced – Murdaugh attorneys Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin filed a motion publicly accusing former Colleton County clerk of court Becky Hill of tampering with the Murdaugh jury. According to Harpootlian and Griffin, this alleged tampering included conspiring to have the egg juror removed from the panel.

Not long thereafter, Hill was accused of ignoring allegations involving a juror who allegedly violated the judge’s instructions and spoke in favor of convicting Murdaugh.

Despite all of this, Murdaugh’s bid for a new trial was rejected in January by former S.C. chief justice Jean Toal. However, based on the contorted nature of that ruling the stage has been set for viable appeals process at both the state and federal levels. In fact, the controversial decision to deny Murdaugh a new trial – despite the threshold for tampering by clerk Hill clearly having been met – has many believing Murdaugh will be granted a new trial.

Toal’s decision not to do so came under further scrutiny when the juror who said Hill’s alleged tampering impacted her decision submitted a supplemental affidavit following her testimony before the court.

According to the supplemental affidavit (.pdf), Juror 630 stated she “felt influenced to find Mr. Murdaugh guilty by reason of Ms. Hill’s remarks, before I entered the jury room.”

Catch that last line?

“Before I entered the jury room …

Take a look …

***

(S.C. Supreme Court)

***

From an appellate standpoint, that statement is hugely significant … and while Toal dismissed Juror 630’s supplemental affidavit out of hand back in January, I suspect the newly configured S.C. supreme court (and the U.S. district court for the state of South Carolina) will take a different view of its relevance to the applicable standard for jury tampering.

While we await the filing of Murdaugh’s appeal – and the potential filing of criminal charges against Hill – another drama related to this verdict is taking shape.

Late last month, Columbia, S.C. attorney Joe McCulloch – who represents the egg juror – filed a motion to unseal records related to the removal of his client from the Murdaugh jury. Those records were initially sealed to “protect the confidentiality of the jurors.”

McCulloch and his client previously requested the records be unsealed on a limited basis for review by counsel, with a strict prohibition against the publication or dissemination of any of the files. Now, McCulloch and juror 785 are asked for the records to “be unsealed for all public record purposes.”

According to his motion (.pdf), “the defense has consented to this request for unconditional unsealing of the records but the prosecution indicates it cannot consent.”

Wait … the prosecution “cannot consent?”

Why not? Are these not public documents? And do they not have direct bearing on the pivotal decisions that led to the guilty verdicts ultimately entered against Murdaugh?

***

Alex Murdaugh is brought into the courtroom for a status conference on jury-tampering allegations against Colleton County Clerk of Court Becky Hill at the Richland County judicial center on Monday, January 16, 2024, in Columbia, S.C. (Gavin McIntyre/The Post and Courier/Pool)

***

Sources familiar with the situation say lead Murdaugh prosecutor Creighton Waters “flatly rejected the request” from McCulloch, a request which sought – among other things – all documents related to the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED)’s “investigation” into the allegations against the egg juror.

“Why won’t the state unseal?” the source stated. “Because it will prove they lied.”

This media outlet has reached out to the attorney general’s office for comment regarding its reported refusal to consent to McCulloch’s motion. As soon as we receive something on the record from the office regarding this matter, we will be sure to share it.

Regular members of our audience will no doubt recall the dim view I took of the state’s handling of the jury tampering allegations against Hill – as well as SLED’s inquiries into the egg juror (and the agency’s purported lack of pursuit as it related to credible allegations of juror misconduct which cut they other way).

“The lack of independence, objectivity and impartiality associated with this jury tampering inquiry is beyond troubling … and is precisely why none of the agencies involved in Murdaugh’s original trial should have ever had anything to do with it in the first place,” I noted back in January.

Now we can add a lack of transparency to that list of problems …

I have no idea what these requested records will show. Perhaps the state fairly and dispassionately discharged its obligations to Murdaugh under the law. Perhaps not. But whatever information these records contain, it is public information – and must be released. And the state’s refusal to consent to it being released is troubling.

Once again, I believe Alex Murdaugh is guilty. I believe he is where he belongs. I believe the Colleton County jury reached the correct verdict in his case. And I believe if tried again, Murdaugh would be found guilty again. But the process matters – and we deserve to see the process for ourselves and decide for ourselves whether it was on the level.

By refusing to release this information, the state is denying us that opportunity … and stoking the conspiracy theories which continue to run rampant regarding the integrity of the Murdaugh guilty verdicts.

***

UPDATE |

Statement from the attorney general …

***

THE MOTION …

(S.C. Fourteenth Judicial Circuit)

***

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.

***

WANNA SOUND OFF?

Got something you’d like to say in response to one of our articles? Or an issue you’d like to address proactively? We have an open microphone policy! Submit your letter to the editor (or guest column) via email HERE. Got a tip for a story? CLICK HERE. Got a technical question or a glitch to report? CLICK HERE.

***

Get our newsletter by clicking here …

*****

Related posts

Murdaughs

The Murdaugh Saga: Loose Ends

Jenn Wood
Murdaughs

Alex Murdaugh Asks Supreme Court To Hear His Argument For A New Trial

Jenn Wood
Murdaughs

Buster Murdaugh Files Defamation Lawsuit

Callie Lyons

Leave a Comment