It looks like Alex Murdaugh’s chances of getting another day in court have hit a roadblock.
Murdaugh is currently serving two consecutive life sentences for the murder of his wife, Maggie, and their son Paul, but his legal team has been pushing to get him a new trial due to alleged jury tampering. His lawyers appeared before a South Carolina state judge during a procedural pre-hearing on Tuesday and learned that they are going to need to meet a fairly high burden of proof in order to show a court clerk’s actions improperly influenced jurors.
Back in September, Murdaugh’s attorneys asked for a new trial after a series of allegations emerged against Rebecca Hill, the Colleton County clerk of court who worked on the case. They claim Hill pressured jurors into finding Murdaugh guilty to help her secure a book deal and media appearances.
Hill self-published a book about the trial in July that was pulled from the shelves in December after she admitted to plagiarizing sections of it. But that just scratches the surface of the accusations. “The evidence against Becky Hill is terrible,” Megyn noted. “She allegedly plagiarized the book; she allegedly worked with her son who was a courthouse employee to spy on the people who were investigating her and whether she’d done bad things; she allegedly sold access to the courthouse; she allegedly let somebody in with closed circuit TV video of Alex Murdaugh before he heard the verdict who wasn’t supposed to see it. I could keep going.”
Hill denied allegations of jury tampering in a sworn statement in November. The prosecution advised the court against any further action, but a three-day evidentiary hearing was granted nonetheless.
The hearing is set to begin January 29 and could pave the way for Murdaugh to get a new trial. That path forward got less certain on Tuesday, however, when former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal — who took over over the case last month after Judge Clifton Newman recused himself — limited witness questioning and set a high burden of proof surrounding the accusations.
Toal determined that Murdaugh’s lawyers can’t just prove that Hill told jurors not to believe his testimony and pressured them into reaching a guilty verdict. Instead, they must also demonstrate that Hill did so due to prejudice against their client.
While Toal determined all 12 jurors from the original trial will be required to testify as witnesses, the juror known as the “Egg Lady” cannot testify for the defense. That juror was dismissed days before the conclusion of the case over suspicions raised by Hill.
What This Means for Murdaugh
In Megyn’s view, this case has some of the best evidence of jury tampering she has seen, “but the judge is going to limit all the bad facts about what Becky Hill has been doing.” Spilbor agreed. “My philosophy would be let it all in and then whichever way the judge wants to rule, she’s going to rule,” she shared. “But why limit what is going to be admitted into evidence on something as serious as this?”
As Geragos explained, it hurts the defense counsel. “It was a bad week based on what they had hoped for,” he said. “They had hoped for kind of a full blown hearing where you’re going to be able to get in and cross examine it to your heart’s content. They’re now very limited there.”
Ultimately, Spilbor questioned the fairness of the judge’s decision. “Look, nobody loves Alex Murdaugh,” she concluded. “But this really seems to be an unfair ruling.”
You can check out Megyn’s full Kelly’s Court with Geragos and Spilbor by tuning in to episode 706 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.