April 6, 2005

Should we have a problem with Nancy Grace?

I enjoy watching and listening to Nancy Grace. She's so intense and clear as she takes the prosecution's side. Usually, I dislike sneering. But I'm fascinated by hers. Is there something wrong with a pro-prosecution courtroom analysis show? Yes, I think there is. But she brings on the pro-defense people, and they have every opportunity to debate. Reading the Television Without Pity forum about her show, I found this Larry King transcript, which pinpoints the source of her unique fervor:
KING: Why law school if you wanted to do literature?

GRACE: Well, a series of events. I loved literature and my hope was to be an English professor in college. But shortly before my graduation, I recall it distinctly, I was coming out of an exam...

KING: You were a senior in...

GRACE: In college. In undergrad.

KING: Undergrad.

GRACE: ...and was headed to my job at the library. And I received a phone call from my fiance's sister. And something in me, I knew immediately that Keith was dead.

KING: Back a little. How long had you been going with him?

GRACE: We had been together over two years....

KING: So had he lived, he would have been out doing geology and you would have been teaching Shakespeare wherever he...

GRACE: A schoolteacher with a family and who knows what by now.

KING: How was he killed?

GRACE: Keith had a summer job with a friend of his father's. And they were out in a remote area in a construction site, building in a very rural area. And he left that day as a favor to go get everybody their soft drinks. They were so far away from everything -- to have with their lunches. And when he came back...

KING: He was how old?

GRACE: Keith was 25. When he came back, he was basically ambushed and mugged in the outback (ph).

KING: For profit, you mean?

GRACE: Yes. I think he had $35 and a picture of me in his wallet. That's one of the ways everyone was identified. The wallet was later discovered in the possession of the man that killed him.

He was shot five times, Larry. And he was still alive when he got to the hospital. And to this day, I just pray that he could not feel...

KING: Did the sister say he was dead or just shot?

GRACE: No, it wasn't like that at all. I called -- I had to stop at a pay phone on campus because I couldn't make it all the way to the library.

KING: What had she told you?

GRACE: Nothing. I called. She picked up the phone. And I -- I knew, Larry. I knew. I don't know how I knew. And I said, "Is Keith gone?" and she said, "Yes."

KING: Out of nowhere, you said this?

GRACE: I just knew. And I remember when I tried to put the phone back, my hands were like butterflies. Like they weren't even attached to my body. I couldn't think. I didn't even know what had happened. I hung the phone up. And then only later did I find out that he had been murdered.

In fact, I didn't even know where to go. And I went to our local church because nobody was at home. There was nowhere to go. And I just went there. Because I knew somebody would be there.

KING: Why didn't you stay on the phone with the sister?

GRACE: I don't know, Larry. I really -- you know why? What else was there to know?

KING: What happened? Where is he?

GRACE: In my mind, all that mattered was he was dead.... The next thing I remember was the funeral. And it was a blur. I could hardly see. My eyes and my face were raw from crying.

KING: You were deeply in love.

GRACE: He was the love of my life.
Here's the New Republic cover story on Nancy Grace from a few weeks ago. It outlines the many criticisms of her and ends:
Nancy Grace is untroubled by these sorts of concerns. As she sees it, if she enjoys an inherent advantage on television, where emotion carries the day, then that only serves to counter the advantage defendants enjoy in the courtroom. "Victims are unheard," she said in her office, as she gazed into a compact mirror and powdered her nose, getting ready to go on the air. "Defendants are heard, I pay for them to be heard. My parents living on a retirement pension after forty-five years on the railroad, they're paying for violent offenders to have lawyers for free, investigators for free, appeals for free. That's fine, I'm all for it. I want it that way. They are heard. They're more than heard." Besides, she maintained, this culture of instant justice and celebrity trials is hardly a recent development. "Think back to the Salem witch trials," she said. "Trials have always been a source of controversy. ... Trials will always be a spectator sport."

The crux of the matter, Grace contended, striking a rare note of agreement with many of her critics, is that the spectator-sport component be kept outside the actual courtroom. Getting up from her chair and slipping on a green blazer, she began making her way toward the studio. "It's the duty of the judge and the lawyers to make sure that does not penetrate to the jury," she said. "Who cares what everybody else thinks?"

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