Avenger

Grace connected viscerally with the blood lust of her law and order audience

Her fiery style, however, made her a natural for Court TV, which was looking for a punchier, gutsier commen- tator than its rather dry lineup of simply factual reporters.

Grace connected instantly and viscerally with the blood lust of the law and order crowd that regularly tuned into the channel. She was soon snapped up by CNN Headline News where her show continued to be a popular hit, even as it outraged members of the legal profession.

Nancy Grace, her detractors said, had turned American jurisprudence on its head, for each case begins with a presumption of guilt, rather than innocence. She had “demeaned” the law profession, sniffed Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor, citing her manipulation of “hype, rabid persona, and sensational analysis.” He regretted that “some part of the public” took her seriously, adding “her show erodes the respect for basic rights.”

 

Much of this is true. On her show, Grace is both judge and jury. Never so happy as when she can bring her terrible swift sword down on the head of some caddish male. Men are guilty by definition. Good looking men, particularly.

Her coverage of Scott Peterson and Kobe Bryant, for instance, was beyond stunning for its endless ingenuity in finding yet another bad-boy detail for Nancy to go ballistic over. When “the runaway bride” Jennifer Wilbanks disappeared somewhere on the way to the altar, Nancy was sure the woman had been hacked up by her husband-to-be and would be found strewn all over I-85. Then there were the Dutch boys who partied with Natalee Holloway the night she disappeared on Aruba. Nancy pronounced them “serial predators” because they had the shocking, outrageous, never-heard -of habit of hitting on — yes America — tourist girls on spring break.

No matter that the runaway bride turned up alive, or the Dutch boys were released — and then re-released, and then released again –from custody for insufficient evidence, handsome young men don’t stand a chance in the Court of Hang ‘Em High Nancy.

In my many devoted years of watching — I confess she is my guiltiest guilty pleasure — I have yet to hear her side with the defense on anything! She is completely invested in nailing the accused, “the criminals,” “the bad guys,” as she repeatedly refers to defendants. Watching her is an exercise in the salty thrills of the Reign of Terror, the tumbrels rolling to the guillotine as Nancy shakes her fist in belligerent victory.

Those of us who love her love her more somehow for her instant, always frantic thumb-down verdict. Grace is a born TV entertainer, who knows innately — with her chopped up speech — how to pace us so we can catch our breath. Right before a commercial break, she’ll throw up a picture of some beautiful soldierboy killed that day in Iraq. The music mounts ominously. Her voice drops to a hush “And please remember in your prayers…”

It’s the bravura flourish of a master. Even if it is total showbiz.