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Alex Murdaugh juror dismissed for misconduct sparks laughter by revealing she left ‘a dozen eggs’ in jury room

Latest drama came just moments before the defence was set to begin its closing statements in murder trial

Rachel Sharp
Thursday 02 March 2023 16:11 GMT
Jurors at Alex Murdaugh's trial visit murder scene in South Caroline
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A juror in Alex Murdaugh’s double murder trial sparked laughter in the courtroom when she revealed she had left “a dozen eggs” in the jury room after being dismissed for misconduct.

Judge Clifton Newman announced in Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina, on Thursday morning that a female juror – number 785 – was being removed from the panel for discussing the case with at least three other people.

“We have to deal with the issue involving the removal of a juror,” he told the court, in what marks the latest disruption to the high-profile case.

The judge said that he had received a complaint a few days ago from a member of the public saying that a juror had discussed the case with multiple people not on the jury panel.

Following an investigation – which involved interviews with both the juror, who denied any wrongdoing, and the individuals she was accused of speaking to – Judge Newman said that it was determined that the woman had spoken to at least three people about the case.

She had also given her opinion about the evidence she had seen in the case.

After telling the defence and prosecution his decision in the courtroom, Judge Newman brought the juror in and told her she was being removed.

The juror prompted laughter in the courtroom when she was asked if she had left anything in the jury room.

“A dozen eggs,” she replied.

This sparked laughter from Judge Newman, the defence and the prosecution – and even Mr Murdaugh – as court staff were instructed to go and collect her eggs from the jury room to return to her.

Despite the humourous moment, Mr Murdaugh’s defence attorney Dick Harpootlian complained to the judge that the juror issue was handled by SLED, including one of the agents who has been a witness in the case.

“It is muddled,” he said of the investigation being led by SLED.

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

A new juror was selected from the final two alternates to make up the panel of 12 who will decide the verdict.

Only one alternate now remains after a series of dramas has caused the panel to dwindle over the course of the six-week trial.

On 13 February, the double murder trial was disrupted when two jurors tested positive for Covid-19 – prompting a health scare in the courtroom.

Following the revelation, the defence had raised concerns that others could be infected but may not be testing positive yet – something which could threaten to derail the trial altogether if more jurors test positive in the coming days.

Alex Murdaugh listens during his trial (AP)

Mr Harpootlian asked Judge Newman for a delay to the trial, saying that – while it would be costly to the defence – it could prevent a bigger problem down the line.

Prosecutor Creighton Waters agreed with the defence in asking for a delay for a few days, saying that neither side wants to see a mistrial declared because they are suddenly left without 12 jurors.

Despite the concerns raised, Judge Newman declined to postpone the trial and the trial continued, with the remaining jurors continue to test negative.

One week later, Judge Newman announced that another juror was sick and so had to be excused. That juror in question was already an alternate herself.

The latest drama came just moments before the defence was set to begin its closing statements, as it seeks to sow reasonable doubts in juror’s minds about Mr Murdaugh’s alleged guilt.

Throughout the case, the defence has tried to paint Mr Murdaugh as a loving family man who could never have killed his wife and son, sought to pick holes in the integrity of the state’s investigation and theorised that two unknown shooters were actually responsible for the murders.

During the state’s closing argument, Mr Waters told the court how Mr Murdaugh’s “gathering storm” of financial crimes, opioid addiction and years of “living a lie” culminated with the moment that he became a “family annihilator” and murdered his wife Maggie and son Paul.

“After an exhaustive investigation, there is only one person that had the motive, that had the means, that had the opportunity to commit these crimes,” he said.

“And whose guilty conduct after these crimes betrays him.

“The defendant is the one person who was living a lie. The one person who a storm was descending on. And the one person whose own storm would mean consequences for Maggie and Paul. And that person is the defendant Richard Alexander Murdaugh.”

Over three hours, Mr Waters walked jurors through the events leading up to the 7 June 2021 murders – when Mr Murdaugh was stealing millions of dollars from his law firm and clients in a scheme that was on the brink of being exposed.

After committing the murders, Mr Waters said that Mr Murdaugh “controlled the scene” by using his experience of the justice system to “manufacture an alibi”.

But, finding a cellphone video on Paul’s phone “changed everything,” he said.

Alex Murdaugh: Prosecutor says ‘gathering storm’ of crimes led him to kill wife and son

The video taken of a dog at the kennels minutes before the murders placed Mr Murdaugh with Maggie and Paul at the crime scene.

“It showed opportunity... but more importantly it exposed the defendant’s lies. Why in the world would an innocent reasonable father and husband lie about that?” asked Mr Waters.

In the 20 months between the murders and the trial, Mr Murdaugh denied ever being at the dog kennels that night.

When he took the stand in his own defence, he finally confessed that he was there and that he had lied to family, friends and law enforcement about his alibi.

The prosecutor argued that the accused killer had been “forced” to create a “new story” as his lies had been exposed.

But he also said the new story “doesn’t make sense” due to the tight timeline.

The video was captured at 8.44pm, the final signs of life of Maggie and Paul being on their cellphones came at 8.49pm and Mr Murdaugh’s cellphone showed him “getting ready” to go to his mother’s home at 9.02pm.

During that timeframe, the father and husband claimed he had been at the kennels, driven back to the main house, lay down on the couch and “dozed” and then got up and decided to go to his parents’ home.

Mr Waters closed out his statement by accusing Mr Murdaugh of making a fresh series of lies on the witness stand – including his very reasoning for why he had lied about the moment he last saw his wife and son alive.

Presenting Mr Murdaugh as a “master liar” – who lied before the murders about his financial crimes, after the murders about his alibi, and under oath on the witness stand – Mr Waters urged jurors not to also be fooled by him.

“He fooled them all. And he fooled Maggie and Paul and they paid for it with their lives,” he said.

“Don’t let him fool you too.”

Over the past six weeks, jurors have heard gruesome testimony about how Maggie and Paul were gunned down at the dog kennels of the family’s sprawling 1,700-acre Moselle estate back on 7 June 2021.

Two different guns were used in the attack – neither of which have ever been found.

Paul was ambushed by his attacker as he stood in the feed room of the kennels, being shot twice with a 12-gauge shotgun. The first shot struck his chest, while a second fatal shot tore through his shoulder, neck and head, blowing his entire brain out of his skull.

Just yards away from Paul, Maggie was shot five times with a .300 Blackout semiautomatic rifle, as she tried to flee her killer.

Mr Murdaugh called 911 at 10.06pm that night claiming he had found his wife and son’s bodies.

If convicted, Mr Murdaugh faces life in prison.

But this is far from his only legal trouble – as he awaits trial on 100 charges in his financial fraud scheme.

He is also awaiting trial over a September 2021 bizarre botched hitman plot where he claims he asked his distant cousin and alleged drug dealer Curtis Eddie Smith to shoot him in the head so his surviving son Buster would inherit a $12m life insurance windfall.

Prosecutors claim this was another plot by Mr Murdaugh to paint himself as a victim when his other crimes and scandals were closing in on him.

Beyond the murders, Mr Murdaugh is also facing several lawsuits over the fatal 2019 boat crash where 19-year-old Mallory Beach was killed.

Paul was allegedly drunk driving the boat when it crashed, throwing Beach overboard.

The hanger and dog kennels are seen where the bodies of Paul Murdaugh and Maggie were found at the Moselle property on Wednesday (AP)

He was facing 25 years in prison on felony charges at the time of his death while Mr Murdaugh was being sued by the Beach family as well as being investigated for potentially trying to influence witnesses.

The murders of Maggie and Paul also brought to light a series of unexplained deaths surrounding Mr Murdaugh.

Days on from the murders, an investigtion was reopened into the 2015 death of Stephen Smith, who was found dead in the middle of the road in Hampton County.

The openly gay teenager, 19, had suffered blunt force trauma to the head and his death was officially ruled a hit-and-run. But the victim’s family have long doubted this version of events, with the Murdaugh name cropping up in several police tips and community rumours.

An investigation was also reopened into another mystery death connected to the Murdaugh family – that of the Murdaugh’s longtime housekeeper Gloria Satterfield.

She died in 2018 in a mystery trip and fall accident at the family home. Mr Murdaugh then allegedly stole around $4m in a wrongful death settlement from her sons.

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