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Alex Murdaugh’s request for a new trial complicated by angry husband’s Facebook rant

Alex Murdaugh’s request for a new trial complicated by angry husband’s Facebook rant

The saga surrounding Alex Murdaugh has taken yet another dramatic twist after a random Georgia man was thrust into the centre of the convicted killer’s bid for a new murder trial thanks to his now-deleted Facebook rant about his wife’s aunt.

Back on 15 February, Timothy Stone took to his Facebook page to fume that the family member had been “sticking her nose in my business”, according to court documents.

Mr Stone said he made the post in response to a private argument between the pair and then later felt “terrible” about it and deleted it the next day.

He then posted an apology on his account the next day, saying that he was driven by “Satan”.

Little did Mr Stone know that this brief family spat would become central to the so-called “trial of the century” going on in Colleton County Courthouse – and efforts by convicted killer Murdaugh to be granted a new trial for the murders of his wife Maggie and son Paul.

Earlier this month, Murdaugh filed a motion requesting a new trial on the basis that Colleton County Clerk of Court Rebecca Hill allegedly pressured jurors on the case to return a guilty verdict against him.

Central to the bombshell motion was the circumstances surrounding juror number 785 – who became infamous as the “egg juror” when she prompted some light-hearted relief by asking to pick up her “dozen eggs” from the jury room as she was dismissed from the case hours before deliberations began.

Murdaugh’s attorneys claim the juror was dismissed from the case after Ms Hill told Judge Clifton Newman about the posts from Mr Stone, claiming that they were made by juror’s ex-husband as evidence that she was speaking about the case outside of the courtroom.

Now, in a new court document filed by Murdaugh’s attorneys on Monday, Murdaugh’s attorneys Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin state that this was a case of mistaken identity.

They say that the Mr Stone behind the posts is simply someone with a similar name to the juror’s ex-husband and that the post “had nothing to do with anyone associated with this case”.

Alex Murdaugh appears in court for hearing on state financial crimes charges (AP)
Alex Murdaugh appears in court for hearing on state financial crimes charges (AP)

The Mr Stone behind the Facebook posts has given a sworn affidavit to Murdaugh’s legal team.

“Mr. Stone is a resident of Georgia who has a name similar to the name of Juror #785’s ex-husband. Mr. Stone was the author of the “apology” Facebook post, previously submitted as Exhibit E to Exhibit 1, which Colleton County Clerk of Court Rebecca Hill represented was evidence Juror #785 had discussed the evidence presented at trial with her ex-husband before deliberations began,” the document states.

“In his affidavit, Mr. Stone avers that he has never been married to Juror #785 and that he has never posted anything to the Facebook group “Walterboro Word of Mouth”. He did post what Ms. Hill identified as the “apology” post by Juror #785’s ex-husband but it was posted to his personal Facebook page and not the “Walterboro Word of Mouth” group.”

According to the motion filed earlier this month, Ms Hill had gone to Judge Newman on 27 February – the day after Murdaugh testified at his trial – claiming that she had seen a post in the local Facebook group “Walterboro Word of Mouth” from juror 785’s former husband Tim Stone.

The post purportedly claimed that the juror was drinking with her ex-husband and, when she became drunk, she expressed her views on whether Murdaugh was innocent or guilty.

A follow-up post from an account called Timothy Stone apologised for the post saying that he was driven by “Satan”.

When Ms Hill confronted the juror about the posts, the juror said she hadn’t seen her ex-husband in 10 years, the motion states. Ms Hill allegedly told the juror that SLED and Colleton County Sheriff’s Office personnel had gone to Mr Stone’s house and that he had confirmed he made the post.

She then allegedly asked juror 785 whether she was inclined to vote guilty or not guilty – to which she said she had not made up her mind.

Murdaugh’s attorneys claim that the original post was “fictitous” and that a download of Mr Stone’s Facebook shows he did not make either post.

The Facebook post which was said to have been posted by a juror’s ex-husband (THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA In the Court of Appeals)
The Facebook post which was said to have been posted by a juror’s ex-husband (THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA In the Court of Appeals)

After the prosecution’s closing argument on the morning of 1 March, juror 785 said that the court clerk asked her again about what her verdict would be. When the juror said she thought prosecutor Creighton Waters’ closing statement was good but that she had questions because the murder weapons have never been found, Ms Hill allegedly told her “that everything Mr Murdaugh has said has been lies and that I should forget about the guns, they will never be seen again”.

The juror said that around 10 minutes later, she was dismissed from the jury – just hours before jury deliberations began.

During her dismissal, she was accused of having spoken to at least three people about the case.

Outside of the Facebook post and her ex-husband, the court was contacted by a co-worker of the juror’s tenant who said that the tenant said her landlord was a juror and had expressed an opinion when delivering a fridge to the property.

The motion from Murdaugh’s attorneys included affidavits from juror 785 and her former husband Tim Stone, who denied ever making the posts.

Disgraced legal scion Murdaugh made several other damning accusations against Ms Hill as he accused her of tampering with the jury at his high-profile double murder trial – because she was driven by fame and a desire to secure a book deal.

In the motion, Murdaugh’s attorneys claim that Ms Hill “tampered 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”.

Specifically, they claim that the clerk instructed jurors not to be “misled” by evidence presented by the defence and told jurors not to be “fooled by” Murdaugh’s testimony when he took the stand.

She allegedly instructed the jury to “watch him closely,” to “look at his actions,” and to “look at his movements” on the stand – something at least one juror said they understood to mean that Murdaugh was guilty.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office responded to the allegations on Friday, saying that investigators probing the accusations had already found “significant factual disputes” with the claims.

The prosecutors did not outline what the “factual disputes” may be but pointed to the number of media interviews made by Mr Griffin and Mr Harpootlian about the motion.

The latest twist comes the same day that Murdaugh reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors on a string of financial fraud charges after he stole millions of dollars from law firm clients.

In the agreement, signed on Monday, the double murderer will plead guilty to 22 federal charges including wire fraud, bank fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud.

Murdaugh is facing more than 100 state and federal charges over the multi-million-dollar fraud scheme.

Colleton County Clerk of Court Rebecca Hill swears in witness at Murdaugh trial (AP)
Colleton County Clerk of Court Rebecca Hill swears in witness at Murdaugh trial (AP)

While he has reached a deal on the federal charges, he is heading to trial on the state charges in November.

Murdaugh appeared in court last week for a hearing on the state charges which include stealing more than $4m from the family of his dead housekeeper Gloria Satterfield – who died in a mystery trip and fall at the family estate in 2018.

It marked the first time that he was seen in court since his sentencing at his murder trial.

Former friend and alleged co-conspirator Cory Fleming was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to the charges.

Meanwhile, former friend and Palmetto State Bank CEO Russell Laffitte is also awaiting trial.

Murdaugh is also facing charges over a botched hitman plot where he claims he paid an accomplice to shoot him dead two months after Maggie and Paul’s murders.

For now though, Murdaugh is behind bars at the McCormick Correctional Institution in South Carolina where he is serving two life sentences for his wife and son’s murders.

Maggie and Paul were found shot dead on the family’s 1,700-acre Moselle estate back on 7 June 2021. Alex Murdaugh had called 911 claiming to have found their bodies.

During his high-profile murder trial, jurors heard how Paul was shot twice with a 12-gauge shotgun while he stood in the feed room of the dog kennels on the affluent family’s 1,700-acre Moselle estate. The second shot to his head blew his brain almost entirely out of his skull.

After killing Paul, prosecutors said Murdaugh then grabbed a .300 Blackout semiautomatic rifle and opened fire on Maggie as she tried to flee from her husband.

During the dramatic six-week trial, Murdaugh confessed to lying about his alibi on the night of the murders but continued to claim his innocence of the killings.

The jury didn’t agree and the disgraced legal scion was convicted in March of the brutal murders.