Judge Removes Murdaugh Juror from Trial for 'Improper' Behavior Just Before Deliberations Begin
The high-profile case of Alex Murdaugh, the disgraced South Carolina attorney charged with murder in the deaths of his wife and son almost two years ago, has been filled with twists that would rival a made-for-television movie.
On Thursday, it got one more.
On the morning the defense was to begin its closing argument — one of the final stages before jury deliberations get underway — Judge Clifton Newman dismissed a juror for speaking to outside parties about the trial — including giving her opinion about evidence she’s seen, according to WTOC-TV.
The Savannah, Georgia-based station reported Newman announced in court that the unnamed juror was going to be removed from the panel.
“The juror has had contact or discussions concerning the case with at least three individuals,” Newman said in court Thursday.
“Though it does not appear that the conversation was that extensive,” the judge said, “it did involve the juror offering her opinion regarding evidence received up to that point in the trial that the conversation took place.
“In order to preserve the integrity of the process and the interests of both the state and the defense in a fair trial, that juror will be removed and replaced by another juror.”
As WTOC noted, the jury has not begun deliberations.
The station reported that Newman reassured the juror about her behavior even though he was taking her off the case.
“I’m not suggesting that you intentionally did anything wrong, but that in order to preserve the integrity of the process and in fairness to all the parties involved, we’re going to replace you with one of the other jurors,” he said, according to WTOC.
Still, Newman’s move adds another wrinkle to the case that began June 7, 2021, when Murdaugh called 911 to report finding the bodies of his wife, Margaret, and son, Paul, who had been shot to death near the dog kennels of the family’s estate in Islandton, South Carolina.
At the time, Paul Murdaugh was facing charges in connection with a death during a boating party in 2019, according to a New York Times timeline of the case.
On the witness stand last week, according to Reuters, Murdaugh suggested his wife and son’s killings were related to someone taking revenge for that death.
Less than a month after the deaths, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division announced it was reopening its investigation into the death of a 19-year-old man whose body was found in 2015, based on information uncovered in the Murdaugh murder investigation.
At the beginning of September, Murdaugh resigned from his family’s prominent law firm after being accused of misusing the firm’s funds, according to USA Today.
In September 2021, he reported being shot while on the road inspecting a flat tire. The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division later said Murdaugh has admitted he hired a man, a former client named Curtis Smith, to shoot him to death to provide a life insurance payment of $10 million to his surviving son, according to the Times’ timeline.
The same month, authorities announced they were reopening the investigation into the death of a housekeeper on the Murdaugh estate in 2018.
In October, according to the timeline, Murdaugh was arrested in a Florida drug detox center and charged with swindling the housekeeper’s sons out of millions in settlement money related to her death.
In December, Murdaugh agreed to pay the sons $4.7 million, according to the timeline.
In June 2022, according to the timeline, Murdaugh and Smith were indicted on two conspiracy counts, including one related to Oxycodone.
Murdaugh was charged in the killings of his wife and son a month later. He was indicted in December on state tax evasion charges, according to the timeline.
His murder trial started on Jan. 23.
CORRECTION, March 3, 2023: An earlier version of this article misstated the status of the Alex Murdaugh murder trial when Judge Clifton Newman dismissed one of the jurors. The defense was about to make its closing arguments.
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