Thursday, July 14, 2011

Nancy Grace Prosecutorial misconduct & Controversies!

Career as prosecutor Grace worked for nearly a decade in the Atlanta-Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney's office as Special Prosecutor. Her work focused on felony cases involving serial murder, serial rape, serial child molestation, and arson.[6]




Grace left the prosecutors' office after the District Attorney she had been working under decided not to run for reelection.[7]



] Prosecutorial misconduct The Supreme Court of Georgia has twice commented on Grace's conduct as a prosecutor. First, in a 1994 heroin drug trafficking case, Bell v. State, the Court declared a mistrial, saying that Grace had "exceeded the wide latitude of closing argument" by drawing comparisons to unrelated murder and rape cases.[8]



In 1997, the court was more severe, overturning the murder-arson conviction of businessman W. W. Carr in the death of his wife. While the court said its reversal was not due to these transgressions, since the case had turned primarily on circumstantial evidence, it nevertheless concluded "the conduct of the prosecuting attorney in this case demonstrated her disregard of the notions of due process and fairness, and was inexcusable."[9] Carr was freed in 2004 when The Georgia Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Fulton County had waited too long to retry him, thereby unfairly prejudicing his right to a fair trial[10].



Despite upholding the conviction she sought, a panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in a 2005 opinion that Grace "played fast and loose" with her ethical duties and failed to "fulfill her responsibilities" as a prosecutor in the 1990 triple murder trial of Herbert Connell Stephens.[11] The court agreed that it was "difficult to conclude that Grace did not knowingly use ... [apparently false] testimony" from a detective that there were no other suspects, despite the existence of outstanding arrest warrants for other men.[11]



 Career as broadcasterAfter leaving the Fulton County prosecutors' office, Grace was approached by and accepted an offer from Court TV founder Steven Brill to do a legal commentary show alongside Johnnie Cochran. When Cochran left the show, Grace was moved to a solo trial coverage show on CourtTV.[7]



In 2005, she began hosting a regular primetime legal analysis show on CNN Headline News (now HLN) in addition to her CourtTV show.[6] On May 9, 2007, Grace announced that she would be leaving Court TV to focus more on her CNN Headline News Program and charity work.[12] She did her last show on Court TV on June 19, 2007.



Nancy Grace has a distinctive interviewing style mixing vocal questions with multimedia stats displays. The Foundation of American Women in Radio & Television has presented Nancy Grace with two Gracie Awards for her Court TV show.[6]



Nancy Grace had been covering the Casey Anthony story for years. After the controversial verdict ruled that Casey Anthony was not guilty, her show on HLN had its highest ratings ever in the 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. hour slots on Tuesday, July 5th, 2011. [13]



 Controversies Suicide of interviewee Melinda DuckettIn 2006, 21-year-old Melinda Duckett committed suicide following an interview conducted by Grace concerning the disappearance of Duckett's 2-year-old son Trenton.[14]



Grace interviewed Duckett less than two weeks after the child went missing, questioning her for her alleged lack of openness regarding her son's disappearance, asking Duckett "Where were you? Why aren't you telling us where you were that day?"[15] Duckett appeared confused and was unable to answer whether or not she had taken a polygraph test. When Grace asked her why she could not account for specific details, Duckett began to reply, "Because I was told not to," to which Grace responded, "Ms. Duckett, you are not telling us for a reason. What is the reason? You refuse to give even the simplest facts of where you were with your son before he went missing. It is day twelve." According to the CNN transcript, Duckett replied, "(INAUDIBLE) with all media. It's not just there, just all media. Period." Grace then moved on to a media psychologist who asserted that Duckett was "skirting around the issue."[14][15]



The next day, before the airing of the show, Duckett shot herself, a death that relatives claim was influenced by media scrutiny, particularly from Grace.[14][16] Speaking to The Orlando Sentinel, Duckett's grandfather Bill Eubank said, "Nancy Grace and the others, they just bashed her to the end. She was not one anyone ever would have thought of to do something like this."[14] CNN has also been criticized for allowing the show to air in the wake of Duckett's suicide.[17] Police investigating the case had not named Melinda Duckett as a suspect in the case at the time, but after her suicide the police did say that, as nearly all parents are in missing-child cases, she was a suspect from the beginning.[14]



In an interview on Good Morning America, Nancy Grace said in reaction to events that "If anything, I would suggest that guilt made her commit suicide. To suggest that a 15- or 20-minute interview can cause someone to commit suicide is focusing on the wrong thing."[18] She then said that, while she sympathized with the family, she knew from her own experience as a victim of crime that such people look for somebody else to blame.[19]



While describing it as an "extremely sad development," Janine Iamunno, a spokeswoman for Grace,[14] said that her program would continue to follow the case as they had a "responsibility to bring attention to this case in the hopes of helping find Trenton Duckett." Grace commented that "I do not feel that our show is to blame for what happened to Melinda Duckett. The truth is not always nice or polite or easy to go down. Sometimes it's harsh, and it hurts."[14]



On November 21, 2006, thesmokinggun.com exposed pending litigation on behalf of the estate of Melinda Duckett, asserting a wrongful death claim against CNN and Grace. The attorney for the estate alleges that, even if Duckett did kill her own son, Grace's aggressive questioning traumatized Duckett so much that she committed suicide. She also argues that CNN's decision to air the interview after Duckett's suicide traumatized her family. Trenton was never found.[17][20]



On November 8, 2010, Grace reached a settlement with the estate of Melinda Duckett to create a $200,000 trust fund dedicated to locating Trenton. This settlement was reached a month before a jury trial was scheduled to start. According to the agreement, if the young boy is found alive before he turns 13, the remaining proceeds in the trust will be administered by a trustee – Trenton's great-aunt Kathleen Calvert – until he turns 18 and the funds are transferred for his use. If Trenton is not found by his 13th birthday, or if he is found but is not alive, the funds will be transferred immediately to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "We are pleased the lawsuit has been dismissed. The statement speaks for itself," a spokeswoman for CNN said.[21]



 Duke lacrosse allegationsGrace took a vehemently pro-prosecution position throughout the 2006 Duke University lacrosse case, in which Crystal Gail Mangum, a stripper and North Carolina Central University student, falsely accused three members of Duke University's men's lacrosse team of raping her at a party. Prior to Duke suspending its men's lacrosse team's season, she sarcastically noted on the air, "I'm so glad they didn't miss a lacrosse game over a little thing like gang rape!" and "Why would you go to a cop in an alleged gang rape case, say, and lie and give misleading information?"[22] After the disbarment of District Attorney Mike Nifong, Attorney General Roy Cooper pronounced all three players innocent of the rape charges made by Mangum and Nifong.[23] On the following broadcast of her show, Grace did not appear and a substitute reporter, Jane Velez-Mitchell, announced the removal of all charges.[24]



Elizabeth Smart kidnappingDuring the Elizabeth Smart case, when suspect Richard Ricci was arrested by police on the basis that he had a criminal record and had worked on the Smarts' home, Grace immediately and repeatedly proclaimed on CourtTV and CNN's Larry King that Ricci "was guilty," although there was little evidence to support this claim. She also suggested publicly that Ricci's girlfriend was involved in the cover-up of his alleged crime. Grace continued to accuse Ricci, though he died while in custody.[25]



It was later revealed that Smart was kidnapped by Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee, two individuals with whom Richard Ricci had no connection.[26]



When CourtTV confronted Grace seven months later to ask whether she was incorrect in her assertion that Ricci was guilty, and whether or not she felt bad about it in any way, she stated that Ricci was "a known ex-con, a known felon, and brought suspicion on himself, so who could blame anyone for claiming he was the perpetrator?" When Larry King asked her about the matter, she equated criticism of herself with criticism of the police in the case. She said: "I'm not letting you take the police with me on a guilt trip."[27]



In July 2006, Grace interviewed Smart, who was promoting a legislative bill. Grace repeatedly asked her for information regarding her abduction. Smart told her she didn't feel comfortable discussing it, despite Grace's persistence in the matter. Finally, Grace stopped when Smart said she "didn't appreciate [Grace] bringing all this up."[28]