Buster Murdaugh sues Netflix, Warner Bros over Stephen Smith allegations

Posted at 1:04 PM, June 18, 2024 and last updated 11:44 AM, June 18, 2024

HAMPTON COUNTY, S.C. (Court TV) — Buster Murdaugh, the son of disgraced attorney Alex Murdaugh, has filed a lawsuit against several media companies, accusing them of defamation for documentaries they produced about his family.

Buster Murdaugh sits in court

Buster Murdaugh, the son of Alex Murdaugh, listens as his father, Alex Murdaugh, testifies in his own trial for murder at the Colleton County Courthouse on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023 in Walterboro, S.C. (Joshua Boucher/The State via AP, Pool)

Buster is the sole surviving child of Alex and Maggie Murdaugh. Alex was convicted and sentenced to two life sentences for murdering his wife and younger son, Paul, on the family’s property in Moselle in June 2021.

WATCH | SC v. Alex Murdaugh: Murdaugh Family Murders

The Murdaugh family had been a prominent and powerful legal dynasty in South Carolina’s Low Country, prompting national attention to the murders and the trial. In the wake of the verdicts, several documentaries were produced about the high-profile case.

In a lawsuit filed in Hampton County, Buster is accusing several media companies of defamation for the content of their documentaries. But the content Buster has taken issue with has nothing to do with the murders of his mother and brother, though he has maintained that he believes his father is innocent. Rather, the lawsuit centers on the case of Stephen Smith, a 19-year-old whose body was found along a rural road on July 8, 2015. Initially classified as a hit-and-run, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) said that it had uncovered evidence leading them to reopen Smith’s case during its investigation into the Murdaugh murders.

READ MORE | Questions surround presence of Murdaugh’s at Stephen Smith’s death scene

The lawsuit, filed against companies including Warner Bros., Netflix, Gannett, and Blackfin, accuses the producers, creators and broadcasters of the documentaries and series “Murdaugh Murders: Deadly Dynasty,” “Low Country: The Murdaugh Dynasty,” and “Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal,” of falsely accusing him of being involved with Smith’s death.

Stephen Smith selfie

This undated photo provided by Sandy Smith shows Stephen Smith, a South Carolina teen whose body was found on a road in 2015. (Sandy Smith)

The documentaries are accused of alluding to Buster as Smith’s murderer as well as insinuating that Buster and Smith had a romantic relationship. “These statements are untrue in their entirety,” the lawsuit states.

Though not named directly, Buster pointed to a “young man with red hair carrying a baseball bat” visible in the Netflix documentary series. “The Plaintiff has red hair, and it is readily ascertainable from the content of the series that the creators were depicting the Plaintiff as the murderer of Stephen Smith.”

Michael DeWitt Jr. is named in the suit both as an individual and as editor of the weekly newspaper The Hampton County Guardian, because of statements he made in the Netflix series, including, “We could not put the Murdaugh name in the story unless we wanted to face lawsuits. We said a prominent well-known family was rumored to be involved. Everyone knew who we were talking about. We published the story and we waited. People would come up to me in the Piggly Wiggly and pat me on the back. We’re so thankful you had the courage to run the story.”

The lawsuit asks for unspecified actual and punitive damages for irreparable damage to Buster’s reputation and mental anguish.