South Carolina

Juror in Alex Murdaugh Murder Trial Dismissed for ‘Improper Conversations' Outside the Courtroom

The move by Judge Clifton Newman came as testimony wrapped and lawyers for Murdaugh were set to deliver closing arguments

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A juror in the double murder trial of disgraced South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh was removed Thursday for discussing the case with people outside the court.

Judge Clifton Newman made the announcement as the hearing resumed Thursday, revealing the court had received a letter from a member of the public indicating that a juror had "improper conversations" with at least three individuals and offered her opinion on evidence that had been presented in the case.

Newman said those individuals and the juror were interviewed by investigators and after a closed-door hearing in chambers this week, in which they "waffled" on the nature of the conversations, he determined the juror would be removed and replaced.

The juror denied discussing the case with anyone, however, in at least one instance the conversation was recorded and played for the judge.

"Though it does not appear that the conversations were that extensive, it did involve the juror offering her opinion regarding evidence received up to that point in the trial," Newman said.

Addressing the juror directly, the judge said he isn't "suggesting that you intentionally did anything wrong, but in order to preserve the integrity of the process and in fairness to all the parties involved, we are going to replace you with one of the other jurors."

Judge Newman then asked the juror if she had any belongings in the jury room that she needed the bailiff to get for her before being released. She replied she had her purse, a bottle of water and "a dozen eggs."

“We get a lot of interesting things, but now a dozen eggs," Newman said.

Five jurors have now been removed from the panel over the six-week trial and just one alternate remains. The other jurors have had to leave because of COVID-19 or other medical problems.

News 4's Jonathan Dienst reports.

The move by Newman came as testimony wrapped and lawyers for Murdaugh were set to deliver closing arguments, their last chance to convince the jury that Murdaugh did not kill his 22-year-old son, Paul, and his 52-year-old wife, Maggie.

Defense attorney Dick Harpootlian said he didn't disagree with Newman's decision but thinks having two State Law Enforcement Division agents tied to the case — one who testified and a second involved in the investigation — interview the people the juror talked to was “a continuum of a calamity of errors” that included how badly the defense thinks the murder probe has been handled.

Murdaugh, 54, faces 30 years to life in prison if he is convicted of either murder count. Investigators said Paul was shot twice with a shotgun and Maggie was shot four or five times with a rifle outside dog kennels on their Colleton County property on June 7, 2021.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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