Alex Murdaugh trial court clerk ducks question about whether she tampered with jury

Alex Murdaugh’s attorneys have accused South Carolina Clerk of Court Rebecca Hill of jury tampering and have called for a federal investigation into whether she violated Murdaugh’s civil rights

Andrea Cavallier
Friday 08 September 2023 15:02 BST
Alex Murdaugh’s attorneys demand new trial over allegations of jury tampering

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Colleton County Clerk of Court Rebecca “Becky” Hill had nothing to say when she was spotted on Thursday for the first time since being accused of tampering with the jury in Alex Murdaugh’s murder trial.

Ms Hill clutched her cell phone, a drink and a stack of papers in one hand as she crossed the street in Walterboro, South Carolina, around 10am and walked into the courthouse through a back gate.

In a video posted by Fox News, a photographer could be heard asking her, “Did you tamper with the jurors?”

The court clerk glanced over at the photographer, but ignored the comment and kept walking.

“Anything?” the photographer asked as she accessed the gate and walked inside. “Did you tamper with the jurors, Rebecca?”

Earlier this week, Ms Hill was slammed with allegations in a bombshell motion filed by Murdaugh’s defence attorneys accusing her of unlawfully tampering with the jury because she was driven by fame and a desire to secure a book deal.

The court clerk, who was elected to her position in 2020 and previously worked as a court reporter, has hired two high-profile attorneys.

State Rep Justin Bamberg (D-Bamberg) confirmed to The State newspaper that both he and another lawyer, former assistant US attorney Will Lewis, are representing Colleton County Clerk of Court Rebecca “Becky” Hill.

Ms Hill retained her legal team just a day after the accusations against her were revealed in motion filed by Murdaugh’s attorneys requesting a new trial for the former legal scion who was convicted in March of killing his wife Maggie and son Paul.

Mr Bamberg is no stranger to the Murdaugh saga and has previously represented a number of the victims of Murdaugh’s alleged financial crimes.

One of the victims was Hakeem Pinckney, who died on a ventilator after Murdaugh allegedly stole the settlement from the car crash that paralysed the deaf 19-year-old.

Colleton County Clerk of Court Rebecca Hill listens as Prosecutor Creighton Waters makes closing arguments in Alex Murdaugh trial
Colleton County Clerk of Court Rebecca Hill listens as Prosecutor Creighton Waters makes closing arguments in Alex Murdaugh trial

A regular commenter on Murdaugh case, Mr Bamberg also appeared on Low Country, the HBO documentary about the family. And he isn’t the only attorney with ties to the case who has emerged.

Columbia attorney Joe McCullough is representing two jurors named in the motion filed this this week. Mr McCullough also represents Connor Cook, one of the survivors of the 2019 boat crash that killed Mallory Beach while Paul Murdaugh was driving.

Mr Lewis, the second attorney representing Ms Hill, was a federal prosecutor and is now in private practice. In 2019, he sent former 5th Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson to prison for wire fraud in connection with Johnson’s thefts from the government.

Earlier this week, Murdaugh’s attorneys Jim Griffin and Dick Harpootlian filed the motion with allegations against Ms Hill and have called for a federal investigation into whether the court clerk violated Murdaugh’s civil rights.

The motion alleges Ms Hill tampered with the jury because she was driven by fame and a desire to secure a book deal.

Her tell-all book from the trial Behind the Doors of Justice: The Murdaugh Murders was released on 1 August.

Alex Murdaugh’s attorneys Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin speak at a news conference after filing a motion requesting a new trial for their client
Alex Murdaugh’s attorneys Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin speak at a news conference after filing a motion requesting a new trial for their client

Ms Hill is accused of having one-on-one chats with the jury foreperson, sometimes behind closed doors in a bathroom.

She allegedly told jurors who smoked they couldn’t take a cigarette break until a verdict was reached. She also gave jurors the business cards of reporters during the trial.

“She asked jurors about their opinions about Mr. Murdaugh’s guilt or innocence. She instructed them not to believe evidence presented in Mr. Murdaugh’s defense, including his own testimony. She lied to the judge to remove a juror she believed might not vote guilty. And she pressured jurors to reach a guilty verdict quickly so she could profit from it,” Murdaugh’s attorneys wrote.

Ms Hill also allegedly told the jury “not to be fooled” by the evidence presented by the defense, to watch Murdaugh closely as he testified and to “look at his actions,” and “look at his movements.” One juror said in a sworn statement that they understood that to mean Murdaugh was guilty.

Murdaugh gives his testimony during his murder trial at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro
Murdaugh gives his testimony during his murder trial at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro

The clerk also accompanied three jurors to New York City where they gave TV interviews after the trial.

“Clerks are supposed to help get people in the courtroom, organize exhibits, get lunch or answer simple jury questions like finding the bathroom,” lawyer John Fishwick Jr., a former U.S. Attorney, told the Associated Press.

“You are never supposed to talk to a jury about the case.”

If the allegations are proven to be true, attorney Duncan Levin told The Independent that Murdaugh should then “unquestionably” be granted his request for a new trial.

Now that Murdaugh’s defence attorneys have filed the motion, an evidentiary hearing is likely to take place where the evidence for the accusations against Ms Hill will be laid out.

At this time, Ms Hill does not face any criminal charges.

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