Judge Jean Toal said that "fleeting and foolish comments" were made "by a publicity-seeking clerk of court," but she said the comments did not impact the verdict
Alex Murdaugh will not get a new trial after being convicted of the murders of his wife and son, despite one juror testifying that comments from Colleton County Clerk of Court Rebecca Hill influenced her guilty verdict
A retired South Carolina Supreme Court judge said that Hill was a "a publicity-seeking clerk of court," but did not find enough reason to retry Murdaugh for the murders. She stated the the evidence in the case was "overwhelming and the jury verdict not surprising"
Murdaugh is in a maximum-security South Carolina prison and remains convicted of the murders and more than 20 financial crimes
Alex Murdaugh will not be getting a new murder trial despite one juror testifying that comments made by Colleton County Clerk of Court Rebecca Hill influenced her decision to convict him for the murders of his wife and son.
The South Carolina Supreme Court judge overseeing the hearing did state that Hill made "fleeting and foolish comments" during the trial, but found that they did not have an impact on the guilty verdict.
Murdaugh's attorneys accused Hill of tampering with the jury by “advising them not to believe Murdaugh's testimony and other evidence presented by the defense, pressuring them to reach a quick guilty verdict, and even misrepresenting critical and material information to the trial judge in her campaign to remove a juror she believed to be favorable to the defense," according to a motion for a new trial filed by defense attorneys Richard Harpootlian and James Griffin, which was previously reviewed by PEOPLE.
During Monday's hearing in connection with the motion, one juror — identified only as Juror Z — testified that comments from Hill influenced her decision to convict Murdaugh and “made it seem like he was already guilty." The other 11 jurors denied that Hill influenced their guilty verdict. She also confirmed that she previously stated that she was pressured by the other jurors to vote for a guilty verdict.
Last March, Murdaugh was found guilty of the 2021 murders of his wife, Margaret "Maggie" Murdaugh, 52, and son, Jurors deliberated for less than three hours before convicting the former personal injury lawyer. Murdaugh was sentenced to two life sentences in prison for the murders.
Murdaugh's attorney's accused Hill of jury tampering in order to "secure a book deal and media appearances that would not happen in the event of a mistrial," the attorneys claimed in the motion. "Ms. Hill betrayed her oath of office for money and fame." (Hill released a book about the Murdaugh murder trial — Behind the Doors of Justice: The Murdaugh Murders — in late July.)
Retired South Carolina Supreme Court Justice Jean Toal oversaw the hearing on Monday and said that although she found Hill was "not completely credible as a witness" and was "attracted by the siren call of celebrity," she found that comments made by Hill did not impact the verdict.
In reference to Juror Z stating she was pressured by other jurors to vote guilty, Toal said in her ruling that "pressure from fellow jurors is a part of the normal give and take of jury deliberations. The court is not to inquire in any way about what is said in those deliberations."
Toal said that she read the entire transcript of the murder trial and stated, "I simply do not believe that the authority of our South Carolina Supreme Court requires a new trial in a very lengthy trial, such as this, on the strength of some fleeting and foolish comments by a publicity-seeking clerk of court."
Toal added that in the case, "the evidence was overwhelming and the jury verdict not surprising."
During the hearing, Hill testified and denied making any comments to the jury. "I did not have a conversation with any juror about any topic related to this case," Hill said.
Barnwell County court clerk Rhonda McElveen also testified, stating that before the trial, Hill brought up the idea of writing a book about the trial and said that if there was a guilty verdict, they'd be able to “sell more books.”
Hill has been accused of plagiarizing a passage of her book from a BBC article by its author, NBC News reports. She also stated that she made around $100,000 profit from it before sales were suspended amid the plagiarism allegations. Hill did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.
What's Next for Alex Murdaugh?
Murdaugh remains in a high-security South Carolina prison, serving two life sentences for the murders of Paul and Maggie. According to CBS News, he was moved into protective custody last April.
In November, the disgraced lawyer and convicted family murderer pleaded guilty to 22 financial crimes, including wire fraud, bank fraud, money laundering, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, bank fraud and more, the South Carolina Attorney General's office previously confirmed to PEOPLE. He was sentenced to 27 years in prison for those crimes, ABC News reports.
The son of Murdaugh's longtime housekeeper Gloria Satterfield, who died in a mysterious trip and fall at the Murdaugh estate, spoke at Murdaugh's sentencing.
"You lied, you cheated, you stole," Michael Satterfield said in part, NBC News reported. "You betrayed me and my family and everybody else."
"It is unimaginable to me that you have done some of the things you have done," Circuit Judge Clifton Newman told Murdaugh at the sentencing, NBC News reported. "Whether it is you or someone you become upon using drugs or the process of committing crimes over and over, I don't know. I don't even know who I am speaking to now."
For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!
Read the original article on People.