One of the 12 jurors in Alex Murdaugh‘s double murder trial was replaced with an alternative on Thursday morning after Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman stated she participated in inappropriate talks outside the courtroom.
Newman said that he talked with the juror, known as No. 785, and she denied discussing the case; nevertheless, when two other persons were interrogated about their communication with the jury, they “waffled on the nature and amount of the relationship.”
According to Newman, the juror eventually talked with three persons about the case, but not extensively, and it entailed “providing her view about evidence obtained.”
Defense attorney Richard “Dick” Harpootlian voiced alarm about the juror’s activities and noted that agents from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, or SLED, were present as the court investigated.
“SLED has made yet another poor decision in this matter,” he stated. “This is merely a chain reaction of mistakes.”
Newman called the juror in and informed her she was being dismissed after describing the facts to the courtroom before the defense began closing arguments Thursday morning.
“You have been by all accounts a fantastic juror, smiled regularly, and evidently been attention to the case and done well,” he stated, adding, “Thank you for your service.
I’m not claiming you did anything wrong on purpose, but in order to maintain the integrity of the process and to be fair to all parties involved, we’ll replace you with one of the other jurors.”
When the judge inquired whether the juror had anything she needed to take with her before leaving, she said that she had a dozen eggs in a back room.
The jury was seated after she departed, and the defense started its final arguments.
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Murdaugh, a once-prominent personal injury lawyer in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, is suspected of killing his wife and their younger son in order to generate sympathy and prevent further investigation into his financial misdeeds.