The South Carolina Attorney General has called upon an appeals court to compel the defense team of convicted murderer, Alex Murdaugh, to amend and resubmit their appeal for a new trial. This request is said to be prompted in part by an ongoing investigation, which has raised serious questions regarding Murdaugh’s allegations of jury tampering.
Murdaugh, a debarred personal injury attorney found guilty of his wife and adult son’s murder, is in the process of appealing his conviction. Last week, his lawyers demanded a postponement of his appeal, arguing for a retrial over claims of jury manipulation.
The office of State Attorney General Alan Wilson countered these motions in a five-page response on Friday afternoon, requesting the court give Murdaugh’s lawyers a ten-day grace period to submit a revised appeal. The filed response detailed a litany of “procedural defects” in the original appeal submitted by Murdaugh on September 5, contending it was insufficient to suspend his appeal and initiate his motion for a fresh trial in circuit court.
Last week, Wilson had directed the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division to probe the allegations in Murdaugh’s motion for a fresh trial for murder, as stated in an announcement jointly delivered by Wilson and the investigative body. “The state’s only vested interest is seeking the truth,” the September 7 joint statement stated, assuring of a comprehensive and impartial investigation that will pursue the facts to their conclusions.
Friday’s response from the state did not explicitly contest the allegations of jury tampering by Colleton County Clerk of Court, Rebecca “Becky” Hill, present in the original defense motion. However, it highlighted that the ongoing investigation has already disclosed substantial factual conflicts that discredit Murdaugh’s claims.
Murdaugh’s lawyers have charged Hill with manipulating the jury by persuading them to disregard Murdaugh’s testimony along with other evidence put forth by the defense, coercion into a swift guilty verdict, and misrepresentation of crucial information to the trial judge in her quest to exclude a juror supposedly in favor of the defense.
In its motion for a new trial, the state argues Murdaugh’s defense team has yet to substantiate their claims that the evidence alleged was discovered post-trial or that the evidence could not have been unearthed pre-trial during the six-week-long case that unfolded from January to March of this year. The state also highlights that the original motion lacks the crucial requirement – an affidavit from Murdaugh.
The state is also contending conflicting comments made by Murdaugh’s lawyers during media press conferences and interviews about the timing of discovering the alleged jury tampering, insisting on a clear explanation. In the revised motion, it is incumbent upon Murdaugh to define the exact timeline and manner of learning about the allegations, as directed by the state.
If a new motion meeting the legal standard is submitted by the defense, the veracity of Murdaugh’s claims will then lie in the hands of Judge Clifton Newman. Newman previously sentenced Murdaugh to two life sentences, which the debarred attorney is currently serving in a South Carolina state prison.
In a separate case, Murdaugh is slated to appear before a federal court judge the following week. There, he is expected to plead guilty to nearly twenty-four counts of fraud and financial crimes following a cooperation agreement as indicated by his defense team.
Next on the mainland, Murdaugh is set for trial in November on charges pertaining to stolen settlement funds from the late housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield’s family. This marks the beginning of 101 state charges arrayed against him, largely tied to accusations of theft from his client’s legal settlements, with the total losses reported by victims estimated close to $8.8 million, as informed by prosecutors.