SC court grants stay of Alex Murdaugh’s appeal so he can seek new trial
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - The South Carolina Court of Appeals is allowing convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh to set aside his appeal of his conviction in the June 2021 killings of his wife and son so that he can then officially request a new trial in circuit court.
An order signed by Judge H. Bruce Williams granted a motion to suspend Murdaugh’s conviction appeal in order to file a motion for a new trial.
A jury convicted Murdaugh in March in the June 7, 2021, killings of his wife, Maggie Murdaugh, and their son, Paul Murdaugh.
Murdaugh’s attorneys claimed jury tampering by Colleton County Clerk of Court Rebecca Hill in September.
Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin, Murdaugh’s defense team, called the court’s decision “welcomed news.”
“We intend to proceed expeditiously and will seek a full-blown evidentiary hearing addressing the serious allegations pertaining to improper jury communications by the Clerk of Court,” the defense said in a statement.
Murdaugh’s attorneys alleged Hill advised jurors “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.”
SPECIAL SECTION: The Murdaugh Cases
The defense also alleges Hill asked jurors for their opinions about Murdaugh’s guilt or innocence, “invented a story” about a Facebook post to remove a juror she believed might vote not guilty, and “pressured jurors to reach a quick verdict, telling them from the outset of their deliberations that it ‘shouldn’t take them long.’”
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson asked the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division to investigate the allegations days after Harpootlian and Griffin held a news conference on their motion.
“The State’s only vested interest is seeking the truth,” a statement read. “As with all investigations, SLED and the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office are committed to a fair and impartial investigation and will continue to follow the facts wherever they lead.”
The prosecution’s response to the defense’s motion for a new trial acknowledges that “suspension of the appeal and a remand for an evidentiary hearing will be necessary to properly resolve some of the serious claims” the defense raised.
“Objective investigation by SLED remains ongoing, but the inquiry has already revealed significant factual disputes as to claims in appellant’s motion,” court documents state. “If no credible claims can be found to support the claims brought by the appellant, the State will be prepared to argue against the motion before [Judge] Clifton Newman on remand.”
But it argues the request by the defense is “procedurally defective.” Their response claims the defense motion does not reveal precisely when or how it learned of claims of jury tampering, but argues the defense “made multiple statements to various media outlets indicating they were potentially aware of an issue with the jury at and about the time of the trial.”
The order requires Murdaugh’s attorneys to file status updates every 30 days.
The Attorney General’s Office has not yet returned a request for comment.
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