Thursday, September 9, 2010

Cable TV `expert' Nancy Grace leading the lynch mob against Scott Peterson

This is a Knight Ridder/Tribune article by Mark Bowden, published in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Truer commentary has never been written. Good work, Mr. Bowden, for nailing Ms. Grace and all the other so-called experts who contributed to the wrongful conviction of Scott Peterson.

Cable TV `expert' Nancy Grace leading the lynch mob against Scott Peterson

Byline: Mark Bowden

I was half listening to the comfortable drone of CNN's "Larry King Live" show last week when something made me look up from my book.

Nancy Grace, a former Atlanta prosecutor who appears often on King's show as a legal expert, was coolly eviscerating Scott Peterson, who is suspected of murdering his pregnant wife, Laci, and dumping her body in the ocean. Peterson is awaiting trial, but Grace already seems indignant about his guilt. She's not alone. Prosecutorial leaks have been building a case against Peterson for months, and after the bodies of Laci and her unborn son washed up on a California beach last month, the case ratcheted up to the level of national obsession.

The cable TV talk show circus surrounding such high-profile murder cases is an unseemly show, a genuine high-tech lynching, with "experts" such as Grace leading the mob to the courthouse.

Then, during last week's show, out of the blue, Peterson's father, Lee, called to object.

"You've had your say here for months and you've crucified my son on national media," Peterson said. "And he's a wonderful man. You have no idea of his background and what a wonderful son and wonderful man he is. You have no knowledge of that and you sit there as a judge and jury . . . convicting him on national media. And you should absolutely be ashamed of that."

Grace replied: "I'm simply stating what has been leaked or what has been put in formal documents. If you find them disturbing, I suggest you ask your son about some of them, sir."

"There you go, Nancy; look at this look on Nancy's face," Peterson said. "You absolutely hate my son."

Peterson was right about that. The look on Grace's face was a scary thing to see. She was being challenged and upbraided in public, a direct assault on her image and considerable ambition, and if looks could shoot blue bolts through a television screen, anyone watching would have been barbecued.

She denied hating Scott Peterson, but there was no denying her feral expression. She visibly trembled with fury. Peterson had her dead to rights.

Journalists have been guilty of aggressively prejudging defendants in sensational murders throughout the profession's colorful and oft-inglorious history, but nothing from the craft's yellowest heritage outdoes the blood-lust marathons conducted nowadays on cable TV by these "experts." The way to distinguish yourself in this market is to have fangs _ and it helps, as with Grace, if you surround them with a head of puffy blond hair and a pretty face.

Grace is typical of a whole category of "expert" commentators who help fill cable TV's insatiable appetite for speculation and opinion. The idea isn't to weigh matters dispassionately and judiciously; it's more like a fox hunt. The "experts" are the hounds who run the suspect SOB to the ground and then bay for permission to dismember him, whether he's a public figure such as U.S. Rep. Gary Condit or the current guilty-seeming guy-next-door, Scott Peterson.

Lee Peterson picked the right person to call. Grace embodies an alarming new style of reporter, the prosecutorial journalist.

Before hosting her own show on Court TV, Grace was a highly successful prosecutor in the Fulton County District Attorney's Office. She is also something of a self-promoter, and is given to overstatement. Her bio on the Court TV Internet site notes that she "served as special prosecutor of major felony cases involving serial murder, serial rape, serial child molestation, and arson. Ms. Grace compiled a perfect record of nearly 100 felony convictions at trial and no losses."

Successfully prosecuting mere murder, rape and child molestation cases would be impressive enough, but Grace's defendants were super-bad; they weren't just offenders, they were "serial" offenders. One wonders how many serial murder, rape and child molestations crop up in Atlanta. At least one of her most celebrated cases - a mere single murder case - was unanimously overturned by the Georgia Supreme Court. Chief Justice Robert Benham wrote that Grace "engaged in an extensive pattern of inappropriate and, in some cases, illegal conduct in the course of this trial." One of her alleged improprieties was inviting a CNN camera crew (profiling her) to tape her at the crime scene. Lawyers who lost cases against Grace complain that in her eagerness to win cases, she showed little concern about making sure the defendant got a fair trial.

This is the kind of allegation often made by frustrated defense lawyers against successful prosecutors, but it does suggest a pattern. If you were accused of a crime, you wouldn't want Grace prosecuting you in the courtroom, and you certainly wouldn't want her prosecuting you in absentia by proxy on national TV.

Her bio says she's now studying constitutional criminal law at New York University. One hopes it still has a semester on the presumption of innocence.


Burkey said...

NG is still talking about Scott Peterson all these years later. She mentioned him in Time magazine's recent "10 questions" piece, and then yesterday she mentioned him again in the Hollywood Reporter..

Anonymous said...

I'd like to know how she can have a second show called swift justice when she isn't even a judge. I watched 5 minutes of it and had to turn it off after she started using her fake concern voice over a kid who has been in trouble at least twice for stealing cars and his mother was suing him. Either way, she isn't a judge and therefore she cannot render judgments.
Not mention she is a mother of 2 year old twins. Her show Nancy Grace takes up a lot of her time, (according to her she doesn't have time to eat three meals a day while those in jail or prison eat more often and better than she does), and now with this second show, that takes even more time away from the 2 year olds. I hope she doesn't consider herself as mother of the year because as far as I am concerned, she is neglecting them.

Anonymous said...

Is there any good psychological study out there, why more and more people confuse their hate for the crime w/ the hate for the suspect?

It really baffles me how brainwashed everybody got in the Peterson case.

Even after seven years the online forums are still full of all those rants against Scott Peterson and anybody who dares to mention that the trial was disgrace for justice.
Aren't they afraid, it could happen to themselves one day?
Aren't they concerned that there's enough "reasonable doubt" in this case to conclude that a heinous killer might still be prowling the streets?
Aren't they concerned that their liberty and freedom of thought is manipulated by the media?
I seriously don't understand why so many people seem to be unable to look beyond the media frenzy, personal ambitions of police officers, prosecutors, witnesses, Scott's adultery and libido, ... even after such a long time.

I don't care if anybody is crying out now that free press" whining: it's time that "crime coverage" is limited to he absolute minimum until a verdict is reached to ensure fair trials. Write what you want afterwards - but don't influence the trial!
The personal freedom of any subject ends were the personal freedom of another subject starts.