Juror removed from Alex Murdaugh murder trial

From left, defense attorney Jim Griffin, Alex Murdaugh and defense attorney Dick Harpootlian in the double murder trial of Alex Murdaugh at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, S.C., Monday, Jan. 30, 2023. (Andrew J. Whitaker/The Post And Courier via AP, Pool)

(NewsNation) — A juror in the murder trial for former South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh was removed after Judge Clifton Newman said she had inappropriate conversations with people not associated with the case.

Murdaugh, 54 is accused of killing his wife, Maggie, 52, and 22-year-old son, Paul. On Thursday, the defense offered its closing arguments.

But before that, Newman dismissed the juror and replaced her with an alternate.

Newman said the court contacted the three people the juror was suspected of having conversations with, and they were interviewed, but “waffled” on the nature of the conversations. These conversations, Newman said, apparently involved the juror giving her opinion on evidence in the case.

The juror, meanwhile, denied discussing the trial with anyone.

The dismissed juror was not able to go back into the jury room to get her belongings. She requested her dozen eggs, purse and bottle of water be retrieved from there before she was released.

“We’ve had a lot of interesting things. But now a dozen eggs,” Newman said.

Murdaugh’s defense attorney, Richard Harpootlian, said he did have concerns because two members of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, which investigated the killings of Paul and Maggie, were involved with the investigation into the juror’s actions. One of the SLED agents had testified in the trial, and the other was involved in the investigation.

Still, Harpootlian added the defense would defer to Newman’s judgment.

Speaking to the juror Thursday, Newman said that she had performed well and been “attentive to the case.”

However, “in order to preserve the integrity of the process, and in fairness to all parties involved, we’re going to replace you with one of the other jurors,” Newman told the woman.

Five jurors have now been removed from the panel over the six-week trial and just one alternate remains. The other jurors have had to leave because of COVID-19 or other medical problems.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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