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Inside the Criminal Mind: Could Becky Hill Be Alex Murdaugh's Ticket to a New Trial?

Inside the Criminal Mind: Is Becky Hill Murdaugh's Ticket to New Trial?
Source: Rebecca Hill for Colleton County Court Clerk; MEGA

Rebecca Hill (left) could become the ticket to a new trial for Alex Murdaugh, according to Board Certified Beverly Hills Forensic Psychiatrist/Expert Witness Carol Lieberman.

Dec. 7 2023, Published 3:04 p.m. ET

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Rebecca Hill, the Clerk of Court for the trial of The State of South Carolina v. Richard Alexander Murdaugh, is the author of Behind the Doors of Justice: The Murdaugh Murders. And, if his defense attorneys can prove their allegations of jury tampering, she will also become his ticket to a new trial.

But, just who is Becky Hill? Is she simply a sweet middle-aged lady with a lot of Southern charm? Or someone whose longstanding connections to the Murdaugh family should have made her recuse herself? Or someone whose hunger for fame propelled her to write a book that ironically is ending up making her more ‘famous’ than she wanted. The key question is: if she did influence the jury, was it by her conscious intent or unconscious inattention?

In Behind the Doors of Justice, we learn that Becky is a 55-year-old woman, born and bred in the part of South Carolina, where the Murdaughs ruled the land, or at least the courts. Her background seems wholesome enough, from singing in her church choir and playing the organ to working as a middle school teacher. She then climbed the courthouse ladder, from court reporter to being elected Colleton County Clerk of Court in 2020.

Becky is also a 5-year colon cancer survivor. She’s married, has two grown biological children and one she calls a ‘bonus’ child. Her son, Jeffrey ‘Colton’ Hill, has just been arrested on a felony warrant for wiretapping at the same Courthouse where Murdaugh was convicted, according to officials, which begs the question as to whether his alleged improprieties could be connected to hers.

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For Becky Hill, her reading of the verdict in Alex Murdaugh’s trial, on March 2, 2023, which found him guilty of the murders of his wife, Maggie, and his son, Paul (or “Pau Pau” as he kept calling him during his testimony, hoping to sound endearing), was the highlight of her life. Thrilled and propelled by these 15 minutes of fame, and having accompanied jurors to New York City for Today and Dateline, she quickly wrote approximately “40,000 words in 40 days” and published her behind-the-scenes memoir. Unfortunately, when some of the jurors read it, they were moved to contact Alex Murdaugh’s defense team and complain about her. Defense attorney Jim Griffin said they were told, after the verdict, that they needed “to look into what happened in the jury room.”

Now why would jurors, who unanimously found Murdaugh guilty of two murders, for which he has already begun serving consecutive terms of life without parole, provide ammunition to his defense attorneys that they could use to request a new trial? Perhaps they were jealous or angry that she stole their thunder and opportunity to write a book of their own. Whatever their motives were, his attorneys found these jurors’ accounts compelling enough to base a motion for a new trial upon them.

The scathing motion states, “The Clerk of Court 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…. Ms. Hill had frequent private conversations with the jury foreperson…. Ms. Hill asked jurors for their opinions about Mr. Murdaugh’s guilt or innocence…. Ms. Hill pressured the jurors to reach a quick verdict, telling them from the outset of their deliberations that it ‘shouldn’t take them long.' Ms. Hill did these things to secure for herself a book deal and media appearances that would not happen in the event of a mistrial. Ms. Hill betrayed her oath of office for money and fame.”

Prosecutors have contested this with an affidavit from Ms. Hill, in which she denies the allegations, as well as signed statements from 10 jurors saying that they did not hear Ms. Hill make any comments. At this time, the numbers are murky as to how many jurors actually said what and how many committed to being for or against Ms. Hill.

Behind the Doors of Justice provides clues as to what may have been going through Miss Becky’s mind during what she calls, perhaps a bit prematurely, “The Trial of the Century.” In the book's preface, she sets the stage for how the reader should regard the Murdaugh family, with their historical reign of power over the courts, “spurring rumors of judicial corruption and jury tampering.” Perhaps, at least unconsciously, she felt this gave her permission to do some tampering of her own.

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In Chapter 4, Attorney Representing Attorney, and Chapter 5, Key Witnesses, Miss Becky analyzed Alex Murdaugh’s testimony on the witness stand, from his “stalling” to “lying and changing his story on the fly” to his body language, including the “direction of his eyes, excessive fidgeting, changes in speech patterns, mostly talking way too much.”

In Chapter 7, Judge’s Rules, she reiterated how awkward it was interacting with Murdaugh each day during the six-week trial, and having to accommodate some of his family members, who requested special favors. She also casually mentions, “having gone to the funerals of Paul and Maggie.”

Yet, none of her lifelong personal and professional connections with the Murdaughs seem to have given her pause, as to whether it was appropriate for her to serve as Clerk of Court for this trial. What, and miss out on being part of the “Trial of the Century”?

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In Chapter 13, perhaps ironically titled Oh, What a Tangled Web We Weave When First We Practice to Deceive, Ms. Hill describes accompanying the jurors to Moselle, so that they could see for themselves where the murders took place. She describes a haunting atmosphere, as though Maggie and Paul were calling to them to tell them what horrors occurred there. Perhaps most damning of all is her revelation that, “Some of us either from the courthouse, law enforcement, or jury at Moselle had an epiphany and shared our thoughts with our eyes. At that moment, many of us standing there knew. I knew and they knew that Alex was guilty.” How much of her certainty that Alex was guilty did she share with her eyes?

In Chapter 18, Curiosity in Colleton County, she wrote, “Our tour groups make us all feel like celebrities, often asking us to pose for pictures and for our autographs…. Many people say to me, ‘You are the one who read the verdict’. I smile and respond, ‘Yes, I sure did’.” These days, tourists can say, “You’re the one who wrote the book that might get Alex Murdaugh a new trial.”

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It could well be that the decades of watching the Murdaughs get away with everything – from moonshine to murder – may have unconsciously influenced Ms. Hill to make sure justice is finally served this time. But, she has denied these allegations, saying, ”This is so untrue.”

Buster Murdaugh has said he doesn’t believe his father killed his mother and brother, but does admit his father possesses some traits of a psychopath. And a jury – whether tampered with or not – found him guilty.

So, most people would rather believe that Miss Becky is as sweet as Southern tea and would never tamper with a jury. But, the prospect of book deals leading to fame and fortune can make one do strange things, especially if they suspect they’re running out of time. In her bio, she wrote, “This is Becky’s first book, but it’s not her last. Carpe Diem!”

If suspicions of her jury tampering are enough to get Alex Murdaugh a new trial, she will surely have a story for another one.

Carole Lieberman, M.D., M.P.H., is a Board Certified Beverly Hills Forensic Psychiatrist/Expert Witness who has worked on hundreds of criminal (and civil) cases. She’s a bestselling/award-winning author and her upcoming book, Murder By TV: A Descent Into Madness, is the story of the Jenny Jones Talk ShowMurder for which she was the defense psychiatrist.Dr. Lieberman is an Emmy-honored News-Talk commentator. She’s appeared on Oprah, Today, Good Morning America, CNN, FOX, HLN, ABC, CBS, NBC, Court TV, Law and Crime and many more. She was trained in Forensic Psychiatry at NYU-Bellevue.(www.expertwitnessforensicpsychiatrist.com)

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