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Nancy Grace Lies Again -- And May Have to Pay for It

Discussing Nancy Grace's fabrications is like discussing a golfer's bogies: they're so routine, predictable, and pervasive that one accepts it and moves on.
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Prosecutors cheat, and sometimes get away with it. Nancy Grace, ex-prosecutor and TV personality, also cheats, but almost always gets away with it.

Discussing Nancy Grace's fabrications is like discussing a golfer's bogies: they're so routine, predictable, and pervasive that one accepts it and moves on. Commentators repeatedly have documented Grace's prevarications, and her belligerent refusals to own up to the truth. As one of the most prominent celebrities on cable TV, Grace doesn't worry about her falsehoods. She has such a rabid following that her factual distortions either are ignored, or applauded. But her reckless and inflammatory comments about the criminal justice system are dangerous.To the extent she slimes defendants, their lawyers, and the legal processes that protect the rights of persons accused of crimes, Grace is able to distort and manipulate what people think about the legal system and, as a consequence, erode the public's confidence in a system that although not perfect, attempts in good faith to adjudicate guilt fairly and impartially. So, according to Grace, once a person is charged with a crime, guilt should be assumed, and if a jury decides that the person is not guilty, then the verdict is likely a result of either "slick lawyers" or jury misconduct. To Grace, the presumption of innocence is a travesty. To Grace, the requirement that a defendant be proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt is a sham.

Grace's conduct as a prosecutor has informed her conduct as a commentator. In Bell v. State, for example, the court declared a mistrial after Grace "exceeded the wide latitude of closing argument." In Carr v. State, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a murder conviction because of Grace's "inexcusable disregard for the notions of due process and fairness." In Stephens v. Hall, the 11th Circuit Court Appeals once again reprimanded Grace for "playing fast and loose with her ethical duties," and intimated that she suborned perjury, observing that it is "difficult to conclude that Grace did not knowingly use false testimony."

Grace's untruthful assertions regarding her personal life have been amply documented. Why Grace would fabricate so many things about the death of a man to whom she was engaged is astonishing. Grace claimed he was killed by a stranger (untrue, the killer was a co-worker); the killer brazenly denied involvement (untrue, the killer confessed the night he was arrested); the jury deliberated for three days before convicting (untrue, the jury took a few hours to find guilt); the DA asked her if she wanted the death penalty and in a moment of weakness she replied "No" (untrue, prosecutors asked for the death penalty but the jury imposed life because the defendant was retarded); and a string of appeals followed (untrue, the defendant never appealed).

In similar fashion, Grace has made well-documented false and misleading assertions, spiced with ugly invectives, regarding numerous high-profile cases - Trayvon Martin, Elizabeth Smart, Danielle van Dam, Duke Lacrosse defendants, Caylee Anthony, Melinda Duckett, Whitney Houston, Toni Medrano, Amanda Knox, Tonya Craft, Barbara Olsen, and Michael Skakel. Her untruthful and incendiary comments occasionally have had tragic consequences. Two persons, after they were condemned by Grace on national TV, killed themselves. Grace knows that viewers who lionize her and her show do not care whether she is reckless with facts. And despite much criticism, Grace remains a fixture on Cable TV, endorsed by her corporate enablers Turner Broadcasting Systems (TBS) and Time Warner Inc.

Sometimes, a target of Grace's venom may retaliate. Indeed, Grace's recent unfounded allegations about Michael Skakel, who was convicted of a highly publicized murder in Greenwich, Connecticut 12 years ago, has resulted in a libel lawsuit against Grace and the so-called "legal expert" on her show, Beth Karas, along with her corporate benefactors TBS and Time Warner. A federal judge last week found the lawsuit meritorious, and refused to dismiss it.

Mr. Skakel, a nephew of Robert F. Kennedy's widow Ethel Kennedy, was convicted of murdering Martha Moxley in 1975. The homicide investigation dragged on for years, and the evidence uncovered and used to convict Mr. Skakel was tenuous at best. The case has produced an avalanche of books and articles by prominent authors debating Mr. Skakel's guilt. Last year, a Connecticut Judge vacated Mr. Skakel's conviction and granted him a new trial based largely on his lawyer's incompetent representation. According to the court, attorney Michael Sherman, also a TV commentator, failed to diligently and energetically represent Mr. Skakel. He failed to investigate the case properly, and failed to present a coherent defense that met constitutional standards. Sherman's failings were "significant," according to the court, and therefore Mr. Skakel's conviction "lacks reliability."

While Mr. Skakel's motion for a new trial was pending, Grace began to talk about the Skakel case with Karas on the HLN station on January 23-25, 2012. After ensuring that viewers knew that they had observed Skakel's trial first-hand and therefore were intimately familiar with the evidence, Grace and Karas engaged in the following exchange which was widely broadcast nationally and on various broadcast and social media outlets. After reviewing the "crux" of the facts, Grace asked Karas: "Isn't it true that Skakel apparently was up in a tree masturbating trying to look into [Moxley's] bedroom window." Karas responded: "Well his DNA was found yes... up in the tree." Grace then stated: "Beth, I love the way you put it so delicately, 'his DNA,' you know, it was sperm, there I said it, and so he places himself there up in a tree masturbating looking down at her window, and whoa she {Moxley] turns up dead within a couple of hours." Karas replied "correct." According to the district judge, the assertion that Mr. Skakel's DNA was found near the Moxley crime scene is "unquestionably and materially false."

The damage to Mr. Skakel's reputation from Grace's and Karas's comments is considerable, especially if Mr. Skakel faces a new trial. Everybody knows that discovering a suspect's DNA at a crime scene is a powerful indication of guilt. Indeed, most persons who know very little about criminal procedure would assume that such a finding makes guilt a virtual certainty. Grace, being so familiar with the case, knew that Mr. Skakel agreed to provide prosecutors with samples of his DNA, which the prosecutors had requested, but the prosecutors withdrew the request before trial. Grace also knew, because it was contained in Mr. Skakel's petition for a new trial, that two other persons (one Asian-American and one African-American) have been implicated by new witnesses in the murder based on DNA found in hairs on the victim's body.

The irony here is that in defending in court her recklessly false statements, Grace is asking the legal system that she has repeatedly scorned and maligned, and whose respect she has consistently disgraced, to operate fairly and impartially to protect her right to be treated fairly and justly. To be sure, justice is supposed to be blind, so maybe Grace will be treated by the courts far better than she has treated others.