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Buster Murdaugh sues Netflix, Warner Bros. for defamation over their documentaries about his family

Murdaugh claims the companies and employees falsely accused him of being involved in 19-year-old Stephen Smith's death.
Buster Murdaugh, the son of Alex Murdaugh, listens as his father testifies in his own trial for murder.
Posted at 4:42 PM, Jun 18, 2024

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 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, South Carolina, in June 2021.

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

In his 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, his lawsuit centers on the case of Stephen Smith, a 19-year-old whose body was found along a rural road on July 8, 2015. Though Smith's death was initially classified as a hit-and-run, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division said that it had uncovered evidence leading them to reopen Smith's case during its investigation into the Murdaugh murders.

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.

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.

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