Friday, September 15, 2006


On September 7, CNN Headline News Host Nancy Grace conducted a telephone interview with Melinda Duckett, a 21-year-old mother of a missing toddler. The mother herself was under suspicion in the disappearance of the child. As the young interviewee refused to give answers to Grace's pointed questions, claiming authorities had asked
her not to, Grace turned belligerent, pounding her desk and repeatedly barking "Where were you? Why aren't you telling us where you were that day? Have you taken a polygraph?" Watching it guarantees a cringe at best and outrage at worse.

One day later after the interview, Duckett shot and killed herself at her grandparents' house. A young woman is dead and all information available to the police regarding her son's disappearance died with her.

Grace has been under a barrage of criticism for the interview, some commentators have claimed Grace pushed Duckett over the edge, some chide her for prosecutorial tactics unfitting in a TV interview. For her part, Grace is unrepentant in the face of such allegations, telling ABC News: "If anything, I would suggest that guilt made her commit suicide." In fact, Grace has fallen over herself in attempts to demonize Ms. Duckett in attempt at exoneration from any charges Grace actually caused the suicide. Her point appears to be it's okay to treat a person as if you were about to water board her as long as you believe she's guilty of a crime.

Unfortunately, that's not the point.

This type of craven and bombastic behavior isn't an aberration for Grace in particular or pundits in general. It is Grace's trademark. And Headline News' decision to spurt Grace onto its daily primetime slot is a just-as-craven attempt to compete with Fox News.

Some may say that's replacing what passes for "news" with what passes for "entertainment" given Grace's regular punditry on infamous trials, but Grace's assignment is an appeal to sensational/right wingery content promoted so successfully by Fox. Like the idea of getting rid, for those tried in the media, of pesky constitutional protections such as fair trials and impartial juries. And, to make matters worse, Grace's somewhat prurient subject matter disguises the rightward drift. You may not see a direct connection, but read on below the fold, it's there.

Grace's Background

If you've been hiding in a cave for the past few years or are simply more discriminating than the rest of the viewing public, you may not know that Grace is a former Georgia prosecutor, victim's rights advocate, frequent CNN "legal expert," and professional victim in her own right. Grace's claim to fame is that her fiancé was murdered shortly before her wedding. This tragedy led to law school and a ten-year stint as a Georgia prosecutor.

This is not an entirely graceful rise to fame as Grace has been cited by the Georgia Supreme Court for prosecutorial misconduct amounting to harmful, reversible error, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an article about the reversal of one of Grace's many successful prosecutions.

The court also strongly rebuked then-prosecutor Nancy Grace -- now host of Court TV's "Closing Arguments" -- of engaging in "inappropriate and, in some cases, illegal conduct in the course of the trial."

This included, Carr's appeal said, an illegal search of Carr's home to allow one of Grace's expert witnesses to view the crime scene and allowing, before the trial, a CNN television crew to enter Carr's home while filming a feature on her.

Successful charges of prosecutorial misconduct are not, unfortunately, that unusual, but Grace is known for a certain zeal for her work.

Grace has parlayed her experience, her victimhood, and a helmet of blond hair into a pundit career spent blathering right wing law and order talking points on Larry King as both a guest and substitute host. Her targets are not necessarily sympathetic characters -- Scott Peterson, Michael Jackson, Robert Blake, and, typically, any other suspect in the latest disappearance of an attractive white woman.

As a pundit, she has never met a potential defendant she didn't at all costs attempt to turn into an actual one and is known for a glint in her eyes as she advocates the death penalty for whichever transgressor crosses her pundit path.

But remember the case of Elizabeth Smart? She was a Utah pre-teen who went missing for nine months. A handyman named Richard Ricci was arrested (not charged) and held for two months for parole violations due to suspicion that he was involved in Smart's disappearance. Nancy Grace lead the charge to have him arrested and indicted for Smart's disappearance, calling for Ricci's arrest and indictment on CNN, Headline News, and Court TV. Ricci's wife provided Ricci with an alibi.

Shortly before the indictment Grace clamored for, Ricci, jailed and still protesting his innocence, suffered a brain hemorrhage and died. When confronted with the facts of the case and reminded of her call for his jailing and indictment, Grace maintained her position that Ricci was guilty. He had a record, his alibi wasn't too convincing, he had worked for the Smarts, his car had mud on it; he must have been Smart's kidnapper and/or murderer. Not satisfied with Larry King's stage from which to try and convict Ricci, she continued these proclamations on several different shows after Ricci's death. The recovery of Elizabeth Smart from people not connected with Ricci brought no apology to Ricci's widow from Grace.

Had Ricci lived, it is more than merely possible that he would have been put on trial. His chances, given the media onslaught and pundit hysteria, of finding a fair and impartial jury were dim. It's feasible he would have been convicted of at least kidnapping on purely circumstantial evidence. He didn't live, though, and many consider his incarceration and death an example of the media forgetting fairness and true objectivity.

For those who physically survive the accusatory onslaught, such as Peterson, Jackson, Blake and lesser known defendants, national "try and convict" media coverage does little to guarantee a fair trial and impartial jury pool. Does this matter to King or CNN? No. Ratings are ratings and Nancy Grace sells. Now CNN brings Grace to its revamped Headline News coverage.

Now, keep in mind, Nancy Grace is absolutely beloved by viewers. When guesting or hosting on Larry King Live, caller after caller dials to weigh in on one murder case or another and typically begins their comments with "I love you Nancy." Her "convict on circumstance" mode of argument sells very well with murder d'jour Americans, those viewers who felt some odd (and somewhat bizarre) fixation with Laci Peterson or some ownership interest in Elizabeth Smart's disappearance.

It doesn't matter that the Grace is frequently wrong on the law or that she serves as a media leaking point for prosecutors. It doesn't matter that other members of whatever panel she is on frequently take her to task for misstatements of law and fact. She is beloved by viewers for her rabidly anti-defense lawyer stance, her hardcore, right wing law and order views. Her message is this: innuendo of guilt is guilt.

How does Grace describe her new Headline News show?

Grace described the 8 p.m. show as "no-script, no-made-for-TV drama, it's the real thing" and "real people with real stories," adding, "We don't believe in talking heads, legal mumbo-jumbo or sugar-coating what goes down in America's courtrooms."

What are the bets that "sugar-coating what goes down in America's courtrooms" isn't an attack on the disproportionate criminal conviction rate of black males in America?

In the law, we have a saying: When you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. When you have the law on your side, pound the law. When you have neither the facts or the law, pound the table. Grace's regular and frequent pounding resounds with viewers and is coming, with more frequency, to a television near you. As the Reading Post put it, Grace's style of punditry is

another demonstration of the deleterious effect on the national consciousness, when news programs serve a secondary function as purely "entertainment television." With all those cable programs that have many, many, empty hours to fill, ceaseless speculation about crimes . . . and sensationalism, is the catalyst for good ratings.

That should scare people who think a fair trial and an untainted jury pool are desirable options on the constitutional SUV. As an attorney on the defense side of the fence (if I practiced criminal law, I'd be a defense attorney), I watch Grace's commentary exactly because she makes me cringe, makes me throw things, makes me send emails to Larry King calling shame where I see it. I do this because she makes me see what happens when a major news outlet like CNN gives life and breath to a person who thinks constitutional protections are a scam perpetrated by cheating husbands, child abusers, and defense lawyers.

In and of herself, Nancy Grace doesn't matter. The war in Iraq and the needless deaths of Iraqis and Americans immediately matters more. But what does matter is that Grace appeals to the worse instincts in the viewing public. What matters is that viewers, on seeing Nancy fight for justice for "Laci and Connor," don't make the connection that it is their constitution the woman is trashing, their right to a fair trial she's denigrating, their impartial jury pool being tainted with made up facts and leaks from the prosecution. CNN understands that; Larry King has said as much about Grace when she gets out of hand on his show. However, Grace's new job is a sign that CNN is Foxifying itself with coverage that is both right wing and sensational. It's a further move to the right and a very public erosion of the basic fairness we should be according criminal defendants.

In a day when the pundit class is made up of former lawyers and government officials, networks would do well to remind themselves that appealing to base viewer appetites may garner ratings but dumbs down coverage and content. As we move into our slot in the trailer park outside the city of the international community, Nancy Grace is yet another talking head happily tossing cognitive thinking and critical analysis in the septic tank. CNN ought to know better and ought to fire her but, apparently, doesn't care.


At 6:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joe Scarborough’s show of MSNBC broadcasted another show that indicates that there is now a “suspect” (person-of-interest) in the Trenton Duckett case, and that the investigation is still on-going as of this date. The clip also confirms that “Nancy Grace is scared to death” about the Duckett lawsuit (and more lawsuits) coming against her and CNN for Nancy’s unprofessional and illegal conduct documented thus far in the Duckett case. If criminal charges come against Nancy, wonder if CNN will cover what Nancy gets served for dinner after she goes to prison? Hope the tickets are available soon for the upcoming trials against Nancy for her direct connection in the deaths of more people who were never criminally convicted including Melinda Duckett. Maybe Nancy will receive “chicken-on-bone” meal with a small cup of ice-cream.” If that is the case, maybe the public should conjure up a public-out-cry against Nancy for getting chicken and ice-cream in prison where she will likely also have access to a television too, but not to cable-television to watch Nancy’s replacement on her show. Ohhh, too bad Nancy. People have told you Nancy, you cannot continue to victimize the victims. Sounds like Nancy’s civil-illegal actions are finally catching up to Nancy, as it does with most criminals.

At 11:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nancy Grace was proven wrong again on all of her assertions on the Winkler case on Thursday April 19th. Doesn’t CNN management ever watch Nancy’s shows anymore?

Nancy Grace has documented herself to be incorrect, in some fashion, on just about every single case Nancy has attempted to cover over the recent months. While Nancy continues to rack up more potential lawsuit cases against herself and CNN for her continued defamation, slander, libel, and even the wrongful death Nancy is currently linked to by Nancy’s own possible illegal actions, it is well documented that Nancy Grace is not un-willing to commit even more such crimes against even more and more victims.

Some Courts have already reprimanded Nancy Grace for some of her documented misconduct. But, Nancy continues to rack up more and more violations of Civil Law, and possibly even Criminal Law too, and it is hard to keep up with the continued violations-count, and her seemingly constant violations Nancy has been committing against victim after victim after victim.

The Lawsuits that are soon to be coming from VanderSloot, Howard Stern of the Anna Nichol Smith case, and others against Nancy infractions (according to the attorneys) and the upcoming Lawsuits from all the Duke defendants, as well as possibly from Winkler herself according to her attorney Ferese, Nancy’s continued law violations appear to be occurring on nearly every single day Nancy is on television.

My goodness, Don Imus just lost his job for stating something that could, in-fact, may have been a factual and accurate statement by his derogatory statements towards the women’s basketball team. How CNN can allow Nancy to document even more violations against even more and more victims is just senseless and a total shame for CNN to just stand by and allow this irreprehensible behavior to continue against more and more victims from Nancy Grace. It is truly just ridiculous. Perhaps it is time to change from CNN to broadcasting Nancy Grace on something like comedy central where her conduct more appropriates is representative.

Has CNN already forgotten that Nancy Grace has current lawsuits filed against her for Nancy’s role in the death of a non-convicted victim who Nancy Grace had called on the telephone? Wake up CNN, Imus had to apparently be removed from the airways, and he wasn’t even directly involved in connection of someone’s death. Nor was Imus continuing to victimize more victims as Nancy has documented that she is continuing.

Maybe you, CNN, can provide the public with the “magic number” CNN feels is the appropriate-limit that Nancy has to achieve with her slanderous, libelous, her connections to a possible wrongful death actions Nancy has documented against another victim(s), and her defamational statements against victims before CNN will take similar actions as MSNBC had to do towards Don Imus.

Everyone will be anxious to hear what the “magic number” CNN will tolerate as the group of victims of Nancy Grace grows and grows from her illegal, immoral, and illicit conduct towards so many victims.

And, how can CNN allow a person like Nancy Grace to be around any true victim at Virginia Tech while Nancy has current lawsuits filed against her for Nancy’s alleged involvement in an early death of a emotionally distraught young mother. The management of CNN needs some serious investigation-measures to be implemented immediately, for the safety of current and potential future victims of the unprofessional conduct of Nancy Grace.

How CNN can allow Nancy Grace to have any access to victims at Virginia Tech is a matter that should, perhaps, be investigated by the authorities and by attorneys for the potential victims of her unprofessional conduct. There is a reason Nancy Grace has lawsuits pending against her, with more lawsuits expected in the near future. For CNN to allow Nancy Grace to have contact with any victim is a crime in and of itself, and needs further consideration by the authorities and by attorneys for the victims sake and safety. Allowing Nancy Grace to have access to any victim is like placing a Predator
near a schoolyard while the trial is ongoing for the alleged Predator. It should just not happen.

At 6:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nancy Grace was proven wrong again on Monday April 23rd from all of Nancy’s assertions that KENNETH GLENN HINSON was guilty of crimes including kidnappings, sex crimes, and assault with intent to kill two teen girls in an underground bunker located in Darlington, South Carolina last year. Remember Nancy’s unfounded rants?

After Nancy Grace pummeled, ridiculed, slandered, and defamed Hinson on multiple shows aired by Nancy Grace/CNN, the court jurors acquitted Hinson today of above charges that Nancy Grace implied repeatedly Hinson was guilty of. Hinson was facing the possibility of a life sentence without parole, and Nancy had conveyed her apparent desire that a death sentence against Hinson may be more appropriate for Hinson.

But, sorry Nancy Grace, one has to found guilty of those crimes before those measures can indeed be taken. Nancy, is wrong again. It appears that the only crime and miscarriage of justice committed in this matter was the coverage of the case by Nancy Grace. It is suspected that Nancy Grace will need more direct-counseling, more “damage-control measures”, and possible more medications for the stresses Nancy is experiencing being proven wrong over and over and nearly every single day Nancy Grace broadcasts a show through CNN.

Get your checkbook ready Nancy, you are certainly going to be writing some big checks soon to help cover some of these upcoming lawsuits against you. Hinson’s defense attorney, Rick Hoefer, will likely soon sue Nancy Grace and CNN of even more civil crimes that Nancy Grace has documented against herself.

The upcoming lawsuits against Nancy Grace, alleging Nancy committing crimes against a suicide victim and estate, against all the Duke Lacrosse defendants, and against victims like Joran VanderSloot of the Natalee Holloway case are just a few upcoming lawsuits that will be filed soon against Nancy Grace and CNN according to many defense attorneys and blogs.

It is clear that CNN Management does not even bother to watch any of Nancy’s shows. If they did, they would never allow Nancy Grace to ever be around any victim of any crime. Nor would they allow her to commit more crimes against more victims as Nancy continues to document against herself. How CNN can allow this unprofessional misconduct by Nancy Grace to continue to occur is beyond all sensible and rational reasoning. To make some money-profits over the best interests of victims is not a choice most well-educated and caring people would choose


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