An amended pre-hearing brief filed by Alex Murdaugh’s attorneys on Jan. 10 details the intended witnesses for the upcoming evidentiary hearing that will take place later this month.
Justice Jean Toal, who was assigned to oversee Murdaugh’s bid for a new trial for the 2021 murder of his wife and son, will preside over the Jan. 16 hearing where she is expected to rule on a number of motions — including establishing the parameters for questioning witnesses — for the upcoming Jan. 29 hearing.
Defense attorneys Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin claim that Murdaugh is entitled to a new trial because Colleton County Clerk of Court Becky Hill tampered with the jury during Alex Murdaugh’s 6-week murder trial last January.
In their latest brief, Harpootlian and Griffin said they intend to question up to 11 different witnesses including jurors 254, 630, 741, 785, and Rhonda McElveen, the Barnwell County Clerk of Court.
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Juror 785 is the “egg-lady” juror who was dismissed just before deliberations for allegedly discussing the case with two of her tenants and her husband.
Egg Lady Juror, along with juror 630, are represented by attorney Joe McCulloch — a longtime friend of Harpootlian who represented 2019 boat crash survivor Connor Cook in a lawsuit against Alex Murdaugh.
Jurors 785 and 630 have signed affidavits (see above) in August 2023 regarding Hill’s alleged statements during the trial. Liz Farrell pointed out on Twitter this week that she believes juror 630’s accusations are the strongest for Team Murdaugh. Juror 630 said that Hill told the jurors “not to be fooled” by Alex Murdaugh’s testimony.
However, several listeners have pointed out that language was used by prosecutor Creighton Waters during the trial and there is a another big problem with Juror 630’s accusation, as Liz brilliantly pointed out.
According to records, Juror 254, who was in the same jury room as juror 630, told SLED that Becky did say “watch his body language,” but that it did not affect their verdict.
Rhonda McElveen, the Barnwell County Clerk of Court, was described as a dear friend in Hill’s book Behind the Doors of Justice, which was Hill’s account of the trial. In December 2023, Hill’s co-author Neil Gordon, released a statement revealing that part of the book had been plagiarized.
For her part in the evidentiary hearing, Murdaugh’s defense team claims that McElveen will testify about Hill’s contact with jurors, including an incident at a Walmart store, according to the filing.
The questioning of other potential witnesses will depend on if Hill testifies and what she says.
Judge Clifton Newman presided over the murder trial, but ultimately asked to be removed overseeing further issues in the case in November 2023. He retired on Dec. 31, 2023, in accordance with SC’s mandatory retirement law when judges turn 72.
If he is questioned as a witness, Murdaugh’s attorneys said he would be questioned in private “to preserve the dignity of his judicial office.”
Late on Friday afternoon, the defense team filed a supplement to their witness list, and added two SLED agents, Aubrey Hill (Becky Hill’s daughter), and Creighton Waters along with Carly Jewel from the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office. The revised brief did not expound on what the new additions to the witness list might testify about.
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The motions hearing is set for Jan. 16 at 9:30 a.m. and will stream live with the team for our Soak Up the Sun Premium Members on YouTube. We’ll also have a public feed for everyone else too!
Contact Beth Braden
Beth Braden is an award-winning journalist whose mastery of the deep dive is evident in her work.
In addition to Braden’s experience writing about local government, crime and courts, and engaging features from her home state of Tennessee, her byline appears on several internationally-known websites. She is passionate about communicating complex information in an easy-to-understand manner and loves to pore over public records.
Braden joined Luna Shark Media in 2023 armed with a love of truth as she seeks out data from the darkest places, drags it into the light, and provides illuminating analysis. In her spare time, she enjoys quilting, strange museums, and good cups of coffee.