Court clerk accused of jury tampering in Alex Murdaugh trial says daughter was ‘excited’ to be on jury

The South Carolina court official at the centre of Alex Murdaugh’s bid for a new murder trial has revealed that her own daughter was “excited” at the prospect of becoming a juror in the high-profile case.

Colleton County Clerk of Court Rebecca Hill is the first person viewers hear from in the second series of Netflix’s Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal, released on Wednesday.

Describing herself as a “native of Walterboro” who does “love my county and love my job”, Ms Hill spoke of the magnitude of the so-called trial of the century being held in the close, tight-knit Lowcountry.

“Preparing for the trial of Alex Murdaugh was huge,” she said.

“It’s been a long time since a trial of this magnitude had happened to a small town in South Carolina. We knew that we had to get together as a county and be prepared for anything that might come up.”

In a bizarre twist indicating how interconnected the local community is, she revealed that her own daughter was almost seated as a juror in the case.

“So my daughter almost became a juror,” she said, adding: “She was so excited.”

Ms Hill went on to describe her first encounter with Murdaugh on the opening day of the trial – an encounter that appeared cordial and as though the now-convicted killer expected the saga to soon be over.

“The first day of trial, Alex was coming in and said ‘good morning Ms Becky, how are you?’” she said.

“It was more of a lightheartedness. It was a ‘we’re going to get through this in about a week or two, we’re all gonna go home. All of this is going to go away’.”

Ms Hill – who is a regular feature throughout the new three-part series on the Murdaugh saga – describes her job as an elected official who “maintains the things that go on in the courthouse”.

It was her who read out the verdict in the courtroom after the jury reached its unanimous decision finding Murdaugh guilty of all charges.

Rebecca Hill swears in witness at Alex Murdaugh’s trial (AP)
Rebecca Hill swears in witness at Alex Murdaugh’s trial (AP)

Ms Hill said that she knew she was “very intently being looked at” by the defence team, Murdaugh family and “probably the world” as she read it out to the court.

“We thought that after the verdict that it would be a lightheartedness, it would be an easiness more so in Hampton but it opened up a whole other Pandora’s Box of questions,” she said in a perhaps foreboding comment in the Netflix show.

Now, the court clerk’s actions during the trial have been used as a basis for Murdaugh to fight his conviction.

In a bombshell motion filed in court earlier this month, Murdaugh’s attorneys Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin accused Ms Hill of breaking her oath by allegedly tampering with the jury in the case, pressuring them into returning a guilty verdict against him.

They claim that she advised the panel not to be “fooled by” Murdaugh’s testimony on the stand or “misled” by the defence’s evidence, pushed them to reach a quick guilty verdict, and misrepresented “critical and material information to the trial judge in her campaign to remove a juror she believed to be favorable to the defense”.

One of the most damning accusations centres around the dismissal of juror number 785 just hours before jury deliberations began.

According to Murdaugh’s attorneys, Ms Hill “invented a story about a Facebook post to remove a juror she believed might not vote guilty”.

Judge Clifton Newman removed the female juror from the panel for allegedly discussing the case with at least three other people outside of the court. The woman then prompted some light-hearted – and widely-reported – relief when she asked to pick up her “dozen eggs” from the jury room before she left.

According to the motion, Ms Hill had gone to Judge Newman on 27 February – the day after Murdaugh testified – claiming that she had seen a post in local Facebook group “Walterboro Word of Mouth” from juror 785’s former husband Tim Stone.

The post purportedly claimed that the juror was drinking with her ex-husband and, when she became drunk, she expressed her views on whether Murdaugh was innocent or guilty.

Murdaugh in court on 14 September (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Murdaugh in court on 14 September (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

A follow-up post from an account called Timothy Stone apologised for the post saying that he was driven by “Satan”.

In a new motion this week, Murdaugh’s attorneys claim that the Mr Stone behind the Facebook posts was actually a random Georgia man who was ranting about his wife’s aunt – and has no connection to the case.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office responded to the allegations on Friday, saying that investigators probing the accusations had already found “significant factual disputes” with the claims.

Maggie and Paul were found shot dead on the family’s 1,700-acre Moselle estate back on 7 June 2021. Alex Murdaugh had called 911 claiming to have found their bodies.

During his high-profile murder trial, jurors heard how Paul was shot twice with a 12-gauge shotgun while he stood in the feed room of the dog kennels on the affluent family’s 1,700-acre Moselle estate. The second shot to his head blew his brain almost entirely out of his skull.

After killing Paul, prosecutors said Murdaugh then grabbed a .300 Blackout semiautomatic rifle and opened fire on Maggie as she tried to flee from her husband.

During the dramatic six-week trial, Murdaugh confessed to lying about his alibi on the night of the murders but continued to claim his innocence of the killings.

The jury didn’t agree and the disgraced legal scion was convicted in March of the brutal murders.

Beyond the murder charges, Murdaugh, 55, is also facing a slew of financial fraud charges for stealing millions of dollars from his law firm clients and his dead housekeeper’s family.

He reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors on Monday – admitting that he stole millions of dollars from law firm clients for his own personal benefit.

In the agreement, signed and filed in South Carolina US District Court on Monday, the double murderer confirmed he will plead guilty to 22 federal charges including wire fraud, bank fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud.

While Murdaugh admitted to stealing millions from clients during bombshell courtroom testimony at his murder trial, this marks the first time that he has ever pleaded guilty to committing a crime.

He will appear in federal court on Thursday to formally enter his plea.