Falling From Grace
With network TV doing wall-to-wall coverage of every sensational trial that comes down the pike -- all Court TV, all the time -- it's hard to miss the ubiquitous Nancy Grace. A long-time fixture of TV courthouse hype, she's now the host of a legal show on CNN Headline News, where she's not afraid to engage in what amount to public convictions of defendants in the midst of their trials.
According to a story today in the Daily Report in Fulton County, G.A., where she was a prosecutor from 1987-1996, her ethical standards leave something to be desired:
Nancy Grace, the host of a self-titled legal show on CNN Headline News, "played fast and loose" with her ethical duties as a Fulton County, Ga., prosecutor in 1990, a federal appeals panel has declared.
The three-judge panel on Monday criticized Grace for not following her obligations to disclose to the defendant's lawyer information about other possible suspects. The 11th Circuit also agreed with a magistrate who found it hard to believe that Grace did not knowingly use a detective's false testimony that there were no other suspects.
The defendant's lawyer in the case called the court's description of Grace as playing "fast and loose" with ethical rules "an understatement." Apparently, this was part of a longer pattern:
This is the third time Grace's conduct as a prosecutor has been criticized by an appellate court.
In 1997, the Georgia Supreme Court skewered Grace for her actions in prosecuting Weldon Wayne Carr for allegedly setting fire to his house and murdering his wife ... [T]he justices said Grace withheld evidence entitled to the defense and made improper opening statements and closing arguments.
"We conclude that the conduct of the prosecuting attorney in this case demonstrated her disregard of the notions of due process and fairness, and was inexcusable," wrote then Chief Justice Robert Benham.
In 1994, the Georgia high court voted 6-1 to reverse a heroin trafficking conviction won by Grace because she "exceeded the wide latitude of closing argument" by referring to drug-related murders and serial rape, which were not at issue.
Sounds like she'd do just about anything to get a conviction. Is this who we want representing our system of justice on TV?
Chris Kromm is executive director of the Institute for Southern Studies and publisher of the Institute's online magazine, Facing South.