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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, April 15, 2024

Revisiting ‘Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal’

New interviews and perspectives in season two of the Netflix true crime show make the series worth the watch.

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The second season of Netflix’s “Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal” (2023) dives deeper into the trial that captivated the U.S. in early 2023 through footage from inside the Colleton County courtroom and interviews with witnesses, prosecutors, experts and friends of the victims. The series returns with audio from Alex Murdaugh’s 911 call when he found his wife and son dead on June 7, 2021. Body cam footage shows his initial interactions with law enforcement that same night. Moments later, we hear a phone call between Alex and his son, Buster, recorded while Alex was incarcerated. These three recordings all remind the viewer of key moments in the first season, released earlier this year in late February. After the first season’s release, Murdaugh was found guilty of both homicides on March 2, receiving two life sentences from Judge Clifton Newman, who captivated audiences earlier this year with his controlled, calm handling of the murder trial.

Court clerk Rebecca Hill, who has recently been accused by Murdaugh’s defense of jury tampering, speaks on her experiences during the trial throughout the second season. Besides making headlines for the accusations made by Murdaugh’s defense, Hill also released a book in July titled “Behind the Doors of Justice: The Murdaugh Murders.” While interviewed for the Netflix series, she points out how strange it was for Alex to be tried in the same room where his family had long prosecuted cases. A portrait of his grandfather was ordered to be removed for the duration of the trial, a stark reminder of the Murdaugh family’s legacy and influence in Colleton County, S.C.

In the first episode, you might be most shocked by the inclusion of a video made by O.J. Simpson in which he states, “It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if this guy beats this case,” along with further commentary on Murdaugh’s trial. Simpson is infamously known for being acquitted for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman in 1995.

The Daily’s previous review on the first three episodes noted that many revelations that came out during the trial could have hurt audience perceptions of the series, especially since it was released a month into the trial. The new episodes address these concerns by going over the evidence from the cell phone of Alex’s murdered son Paul and testimony by Blanca Turrubiate-Simpson and Mushelle “Shelly” Smith, both of whom were employed by the Murdaugh family at the time of the murders  Turrubiate-Simpson as a housekeeper, and Smith as a caretaker to Alex’s mother.

Another courtroom figure who gained fame online is lead prosecutor Creighton Waters.  Waters is interviewed in the new season of the Netflix docuseries, and delves into his reasoning behind the order of witnesses and evidence brought before the jury. Shortly before the ten-minute mark in the first episode, Waters states, “The boat case … threatened to undermine that family legacy that was so important to Alex.” The family’s high status in the Colleton and Hampton counties of South Carolina made many witnesses nervous about testifying, with Shelly Smith crying on the stand and Blanca Turrubiate-Simpson refusing to comment on whether she thought Murdaugh had help committing the double murder.

It is ironic that the newest season came out a day before Murdaugh pled guilty to financial crimes, the same ones which were presented as a motive for the double murder of his wife and son. Morgan Doughty and Anthony Cook, Paul’s ex-girlfriend and longtime friend respectfully, return in the new season to provide commentary about the family and their own experiences watching the trial.

For those keeping up with the case via online news sources or podcasts, the name Curtis Edward Smith may ring a bell  or several, to be honest. Though Alex was already tried for murder, revealing his secrets to the world, the roadside shooting story wasn’t elaborated on as much as followers of the case expected. Luckily, “Cousin Eddie” Smith answers many lingering questions concerning Alex’s assisted suicide attempt and his possible drug dealings.

Because the series did not choose to revisit the deaths of Stephen Smith and Gloria Satterfield, it is necessary to watch the previous three episodes. The brief appearance of Mallory Beach may leave the viewers confused about her connection to the murders of Paul and Maggie.  

Overall, these three episodes are quick, all 40 minutes or less, but if you are new to the case you should start with the first season before watching the second. Netflix did a great job adding on to the story with well-organized facts and interviews while also integrating court footage and newsreels to engage audiences.

Summary The series lags behind current events, possibly leaving those keeping up with the case bored with lack of novel information. However, new updates improve on the original series, and the interviews with Blanca Simpson, Curtis “Eddie” Smith and Shelley Smith help to provide a new perspective compared to previous episodes and other documentaries on the same subject.
4.5 Stars