Lawyer: Buster Murdaugh’s Defamation Lawsuit Will Blow Up in His Face

Getty Images/GoFundMe
Getty Images/GoFundMe

Alex Murdaugh’s surviving son has filed a defamation lawsuit against Netflix and others who produced documentaries and news articles that insinuated he was involved in the 2015 murder of his classmate—a legal maneuver that one lawyer involved in the case told The Daily Beast is sure to “backfire.”

The lawsuit comes more than a year after Alex Murdaugh was convicted of murdering his wife and son in a dizzying trial that garnered international attention.

Since that conviction, Buster Murdaugh, 30, has himself been at the center of a separate murder mystery involving the killing of his 19-year-old former classmate, Stephen Smith, in 2015.

Buster Murdaugh Denies Involvement in Death of Teen

Now, a lawyer for Smith’s family thinks Buster’s defamation lawsuit will do little more than ensure the steady flow of unsavory documentaries will continue.

“I think the defendants will love this lawsuit because it will make a part 3 of any documentary,” the attorney Eric Bland told The Daily Beast. “Buster was never asked if he had any knowledge of [Smith’s] death. He just said he didn’t kill [Smith] and didn’t have a sexual relationship with him.”

Buster denied any involvement in Smith’s death in March last year, claiming he was merely the victim of “vicious rumors.” In the lawsuit, lawyers say Buster “has not been notified by any law enforcement entities of any allegations against him related to Stephen Smith’s death.” The Daily Beast has contacted South Carolina’s Law Enforcement Division for comment. A spokesperson for Buster also did not immediately respond.

Still, those rumors were featured prominently in online conspiracies and in a number of documentaries, which recounted the fall of his once-prominent, now-infamous South Carolina family.

Buster has targeted three separate documentaries in the suit; Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal on Netflix, Low Country: The Murdaugh Dynasty, distributed by Warner Bros. and Murdaugh Murders: Deadly Dynasty, on discovery+ on the Investigation Discovery channel.

Filed in the county of Hampton, South Carolina, on June 14, Buster has named eight defendants in all, including Blackfin, Warner Bros. Discovery, Warner Media Entertainment Pages, Campfire Studios, The Cinemart, and Netflix.

While Buster is seeking damages from Netflix and production companies, the editor of the local newspaper, Michael DeWitt Jr., along with his publication, The Hampton County Guardian, is also named for their coverage of the saga.

On Netflix’s Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal, the lawsuit claims, the series depicts “a young man with red hair carrying a baseball bat. 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,” documents obtained by The Daily Beast read.

“The false statements were published to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of viewers who watched the show,” the filing added.

Representatives for Netflix did not respond to a request for comment by time of publication.

Buster Murdaugh Calls Cops on Photogs Following Him

Smith was found dead in 2015 on a backcountry road in Hampton, South Carolina, not far from the Murdaugh hunting estate—where patriarch Alex Murdaugh fatally shot his wife and son in 2021. A medical examiner concluded at the time that Smith died from a hit-and-run accident.

The teen’s death has gone unsolved for nearly a decade, with his family demanding answers from local cops. In June 2021, however, state authorities announced they’d opened a new probe into the death “based upon information gathered during the course of the double-murder investigation of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh.”

The case received another major update last spring, when South Carolina state police said Smith died as the result of an “intentional killing.” With Smith and Buster having been high school classmates, and the proximity of the incident to the Murdaugh hunting estate, many have viewed Buster as a potential suspect.

Trooper Who Probed Death Near Murdaugh Estate Shares Shady New Details

Bland has been a prominent lawyer in the Murdaugh saga since 2021. He first represented victims to Murdaugh’s many fraud schemes, and later took on the Smith family as a client as police re-diverted attention to the case.

Now, Bland says he believes Buster’s lawsuit has opened him up to revealing potentially damning information during discovery—assuming the lawsuit isn’t dropped.

“I think this lawsuit will backfire,” he said. “I talked to a number of attorneys who were asked to take on his lawsuit and they passed. This will only bring a spotlight to Stephen’s investigation.”

Bland added that Murdaugh is “exposing himself” and that the discovery process may provide key information that reveals information into Smith’s probe.

“I am very interested into the discovery of this,” Bland added.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

Get the Daily Beast's biggest scoops and scandals delivered right to your inbox. Sign up now.

Stay informed and gain unlimited access to the Daily Beast's unmatched reporting. Subscribe now.