Murdaugh trial juror removed for improper discussions outside courtroom

One of the 12 jurors in the double murder trial of Alex Murdaugh was removed Thursday morning and replaced with an alternate after Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman said she engaged in improper conversations outside the courtroom.

Newman said he spoke with the juror — identified as No. 785 — and she denied having discussed the case, but then two other people were interviewed about their contact with the juror and they “waffled on the nature and the extent of the contact.”

The juror ultimately spoke with three people about the case but not extensively, Newman said he learned, although it involved “giving her opinion regarding evidence received.”

Defense lawyer Richard “Dick” Harpootlian expressed concern about the juror’s actions and that agents with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, or SLED, were present as the court investigated the situation.

“SLED has made another bad judgment in this case,” he said. “This is just a continuum of a calamity of errors.”

After explaining the situation to the courtroom ahead of the defense starting closing arguments Thursday morning, Newman brought the juror in and told her she was being dismissed.

“You have been by all accounts a great juror, smiled consistently and seemingly been attentive to the case and performed well,” he said, adding, “Thank you for your service. I’m not suggesting you intentionally did anything wrong, but 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.”

The judge asked the juror if she had any belongings she needed to take with her before leaving, and she replied she had a dozen eggs in a back room.

After she left, the jury was seated and the defense began its closing arguments.

Murdaugh, a once-prominent personal injury lawyer in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, is accused of murdering his wife and their younger son in a plot to gain sympathy and halt scrutiny into his financial crimes.

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

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