Avenger

There was in all this a certain telling overreaction, not just from Grace but from Duke University, the State prosecutor (who would be disbared for withholding evidence in the case) and from the national tabloid press.

Was this rush to judgment, this certainty of the guilt of the rich white boys, this pretense that the back girl’s story wasn’t full of holes the outcome of a paranoid Southern guilt resentfully banging its hand down on the scales to balance them out, in much the same way that a jury had acquitted O.J. Simpson in a notorious evidence-rich murder case?

Was it all an exercise in “poetic justice,” an overdue payment for the lynching of black men and the raping of black woman in an American South where police and judges had been notoriously complicit and conspicuously absent?

 

For Nancy Grace it was –it has always been — something more.

Late of the Atlanta D.A.’s office, now a star on CNN, Nancy Grace found her vocation of lifelong prosecution when her college fiancĂ© was murdered. She was 19. Grace would later tell of the murder in her book Objection — that her boyfriend was killed during a convenience store robbery by a hardened criminal, that the judge asked young Nancy if she wanted the death penalty when the robber was convicted and she “in a moment of youthful weakness” had chosen life imprisonment, that the “cold blooded murder” prompted her to go on to law school where she became a relentless advocate for “victim rights.”

It was a tale even casual viewers became overly familiar with, as bit and pieces of the story were often overlaid onto the most sensational crimes. It had a cinematic flare. The murder of “my beloved Keith,” it was clear, was the source of Nancy Grace’s fury. Why she had devoted her life to bringing justice down from the heavens for the voiceless victims shunted aside by sly defense lawyers and a soft judicial system more intent on rehabilitation than righteous punishment.

The story, however, would prove to be something of a creation myth.

When a reporter for the New York Observer looked into the facts of the case, she found that Grace’s fiancĂ© was actually killed by an irate, mildly retarded, co-worker who had recently been fired. The prosecutors sought the death penalty but the judge denied it based on the mental incapacitation of the shooter, who befuddled by what he had done, confessed to the police immediately upon arrest. Hardly, the actions of a depraved criminal mind.

What is true is that Grace distinguished herself in law school, got a Masters of Law from New York University, worked for almost a decade for the Atlanta District Attorney. She was often called in as a Special Prosecutor, her forte being cases involving serial murder, serial rape, and serial child molestation.

So zealous were her prosecutions that she three times fell afoul of the Georgia Supreme Court, which issued stinging criticisms of her methods: Grace “played fast and loose” with her ethical duties. “Her disregard of the notions of due process and fairness…was inexcusable.” And she narrowly avoided disbarment in 2005 when the court agreed “it was difficult to conclude that Grace did not knowingly use … [apparently false] testimony” in a murder conviction.

Soon afterward, she left the Atlanta D.A.’s office.