A judge declined on Monday to grant a new trial for Alex Murdaugh, the former South Carolina lawyer convicted of murdering his wife and son, who had argued that he was entitled to a redo because a court clerk had improperly influenced the jurors in his case.
The judge said that the clerk, Rebecca Hill, had made “fleeting and foolish” comments but ruled that Mr. Murdaugh, 55, had not proved they were enough to affect the jury’s verdict in March 2023. As such, the judge ruled, Mr. Murdaugh did not meet the bar to have his conviction and life sentence set aside.
Still, the judge, Jean Toal, after hearing testimony from Ms. Hill, as well as all 12 jurors in the murder trial and other witnesses, had harsh words for the court clerk. She said Ms. Hill had been “attracted by the siren call of celebrity” and had wanted Mr. Murdaugh to be found guilty because she thought it would help her sell a book about the trial.
Judge Toal, a former chief justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court, also found that Ms. Hill was “not completely credible” in her testimony in Columbia, S.C., on Monday.
Mr. Murdaugh’s lawyers vowed to appeal, and said the hearing had allowed them to obtain valuable testimony for their future efforts to win a new trial. They said they hoped that the state’s appellate courts would view the law differently and not require them to prove that Ms. Hill’s comments were prejudicial.