(NEW YORK) — A judge denied Alex Murdaugh’s request for a new trial Monday in the homicides of his wife and son.
Judge Jean Toal dismissed a motion filed by Murdaugh’s attorneys last year that claimed the jury for the murder trial was tampered with by Colleton County Clerk of Court Rebecca Hill, who they allege was protecting a book deal. Hill, who testified during the hearings over the motion, denied she tampered with the jury.
Murdaugh was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences in prison after a jury convicted him last March of murdering his wife, Margaret “Maggie” Murdaugh, 52, and son, Paul Murdaugh, 22.
They were found dead from multiple gunshot wounds near the dog kennels at the family’s hunting estate in 2021.
Prosecutors argued that Murdaugh killed his wife and son to gain sympathy and distract from his financial wrongdoings.
Murdaugh was sentenced to 27 years in prison in November after he pleaded guilty to 22 counts for charges including fraud and money laundering after being accused of scheming to steal millions of dollars from his law firm and clients.
Murdaugh’s attorneys filed their motion for a retrial in September, contending Hill “tampered with the jury by advising them 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.”
Hill and several jurors testified Monday during a hearing about the motion.
A few jurors have claimed that Hill told them to watch Murdaugh’s demeanor and actions when he testified in his trial and to pay attention to him. Hill denied the allegations testifying that at most she gave the jurors a pep talk on the day Murdaugh took the stand, saying, “Pay attention, it’s going to be a big day today.”
Hill, who cowrote the book Behind the Doors of Justice: The Murdaugh Murders, which was pulled from publication over accusations of plagiarism, admitted that she wrote things in the book that were not true.
All of the jurors testified they stood by their verdict and were not swayed by anything Hill may have done.
In her ruling, Toal admonished Hill for her actions, arguing that she was “attracted by the siren call of celebrity,” but concluded they had no effect on the jury.
Toal also told the court that she read the trial’s entire lengthy transcript and found the verdict just.
“Each member of this jury took their involuntary assignment very seriously. They obeyed the instructions of the court. They obeyed the oath,” the judge said.
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said in a statement that it was “time to move on and forward.”
“As with all cases, the Attorney General’s office and SLED’s (South Carolina Law Enforcement Division) only mission is to seek the truth and deliver justice, wherever the facts lead,” he said in his statement.
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