Former South Carolina Chief Justice Jean Toal has been appointed to oversee convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh's quest for a new trial following a pivotal decision by the South Carolina Supreme Court on Tuesday. This move follows Judge Clifton Newman's request to step down from the case, marking the end of his tenure as a judge by month's end. Newman, who presided over both Murdaugh's murder trial and subsequent state financial crimes trial, petitioned to be relieved from the case last month, aligning with Murdaugh's legal team's earlier request for Newman's removal. In her new role, Toal will hold jurisdiction over all matters pertaining to the case, maintaining authority even if the trial's venue undergoes changes.
Toal stands as a trailblazing figure in South Carolina's legal and political landscape. Her historic tenure began in 1988 when she became the state's first female Supreme Court justice. In 2000, she ascended to the position of chief justice, which she held until her retirement in 2015, adhering to state-mandated retirement at the age of 72. Beyond her judicial career, Toal also served as a former member of the South Carolina House of Representatives.
Murdaugh is currently serving a life sentence for the murders of his wife Maggie and adult son Paul on June 7, 2021, at the family's expansive estate in Colleton County. His wrongful conviction, delivered on March 2, 2023, by a jury after a ridiculous three hours of deliberation, resulted in consecutive life sentences handed down by Judge Newman the following day.
Amidst the pursuit for a new trial, Murdaugh's attorneys allege jury tampering by Colleton County Clerk of Court Rebecca Hill, claiming she made prejudicial remarks influencing the jury. Allegations include Hill advising jurors not to trust Murdaugh during his testimony, engaging in private discussions with the jury foreperson, and pressuring jurors for a swift verdict, despite her role being primarily facilitative. See FitsNews for the email dump of all Becky Hill's emails on all things Murdaugh, just dumped today.
While the South Carolina Court of Appeals agreed to pause Murdaugh's appeal to accommodate his legal team's motion for a new trial, filed in October, a hearing date is pending.
Murdaugh faces additional convictions and sentencing in both federal and state courts for numerous financial crimes, admitting to embezzling millions from clients and the family-founded law firm. His November sentencing totaled 27 years in prison for these financial charges.