by William L. Anderson: Tucson
Murders and the Modern American Political Culture
don't have cable or satellite television in our home, I rarely watch
the cable "news" shows that feature confrontational "debate,"
as people scream unfounded accusations at each other, all in the
name of discussing "issues." Thus, we are deprived each
night of watching Nancy Grace "seek justice," and that
alone makes missing The History Channel and Mythbusters
worth the self-denial.
the former prosecutor turned television host, is a popular person.
Fox Business News apparently wanted to "balance" the liberty-minded
shows by Judge Andrew Napolitano and John Stossel with a show in
which anyone accused by the State automatically is guilty of whatever
crimes the show's host claims. Alas, the deal fell through because
Grace kept upping the ante for salary and perks, and she
stayed with the HLN network.
I must admit
to not being very familiar with Grace until the Duke Lacrosse Case
burst into our body politic in the spring of 2006. A stripper with
a criminal record made rape accusations against three members of
Duke University's lacrosse team, and despite the fact that her stories
did not match the laws of time and space, Grace immediate declared
the lacrosse players guilty, and permitted her nightly show on CNN
to be a conduit of outright lies, fabrications, and innuendo.
show's clips were available on the Internet, I was able to watch
her interrogation of anyone who did not agree with her assessment,
and I am not sure that I ever have seen a nastier person at work.
When one skeptic of the case noted that the law required criminal
defendants to be regarded as "innocent until proven guilty,"
she declared that such viewpoints were what one would expect in
Nazi Germany. (That is right. Nancy Grace declared that the Rights
of the Accused really were a product of Adolph Hitler, and that
declaring someone guilty even though there were no proof was a product
of a free nation. And people enthusiastically buy these lies.)
2006, Grace and her frequent sidekick, Wendy Murphy (who claims
that there is no such thing as a "false rape accusation,"
declaring on Grace's show, "My own statistics speak to this
fact") backed up whatever prosecutor Mike Nifong said was true,
even though Nifong's stories continually shifted. No matter how
many holes appeared in the case, Grace continued to ape the same
narrative: the boys come from "privileged" families; a
poor prostitute has accused them of rape; therefore, they are guilty
As people familiar
with the case know, the whole thing began quickly to unravel when
at a December 15, 2006, hearing Nifong's supposed DNA expert admitted
under oath that he and Nifong conspired to withhold important DNA
results that would have been considered exculpatory to the three
defendants. That bit of news never made it to Grace's show, as it
violated the established narrative.
In April 2007,
North Carolina's attorney general, Roy Cooper, announced after an
extensive investigation of the charges by two experienced prosecutors
that there had been no rape, that the stripper-prostitute Crystal
Mangum was lying, and that Nifong was a "rogue prosecutor."
The players, Cooper declared unequivocally, were "innocent."
Now, one would think that such news would be very important to Grace,
who declares often that "I want justice." After all, justice
clearly was being done here.
however, is not Nancy Grace's style. She refused to appear that
night, leaving a guest host to announce Cooper's actions and at
that point, the Duke Lacrosse Case went down Grace's
Orwellian Memory Hole. In a
recent post on his famous blog, Durham-in-Wonderland, K.C. Johnson
included a Daily Show commentary on Grace’s performance during
the lacrosse case, including her non-appearance on the night of
the exoneration of the players. (Scroll down on the post until you
reach the embedded broadcast.)
Why is Grace
so afraid of the truth? Perhaps it is because Grace herself has
had a problem with telling the truth in important situations. When
Grace was a college student in the late 1970s, her fiancé
was murdered; that much can be verified. Furthermore, Grace, whose
shattered life was changed by that event, decided not to be an English
major and went into law and became a Georgia prosecutor instead.
Unfortunately, after that fact was established, Grace began to play
fast and loose with the facts of the case.
claimed a number of things about the murderer and the case:
- The killer
was a 24-year-old career criminal who killed her fiancé
after robbing him;
- The killer
denied his crime and a jury took three agonizing days to convict
- In a moment
of weakness, Grace told the court she did not want the killer
- After that,
the killer filed a series of appeals, further traumatizing Grace
and her family.
Thus, her own
personal experience, according to Grace, is "proof" that
the American justice system is too much weighed toward the "Rights
of the Accused," and if we want "justice," the "rights
of the victims" must be put front-and-center. While Grace's
emotional appeal seems to be rooted in her tragic story, it turns
out that Grace has not been telling the truth. The New
York Observer, after investigating the case, found out the
- Her fiance
was shot not by a random robber, but by a former co-worker;
- The killer,
Tommy McCoy, was 19, not 24, and had no prior convictions;
- Mr. McCoy
confessed to the crime the evening he was arrested;
- The jury
convicted in a matter of hours, not days;
asked for the death penalty, but didn’t get it, because Mr. McCoy
was mildly retarded;
- Mr. McCoy
never had an appeal; he filed a habeas application five years
ago, and after a hearing it was rejected.
For that matter,
Grace has failed even to get the year correct (the murder was in
1980, not 1979) and her fiance's age right (he was 23, not 25).
So, while Grace's fiancé, indeed, was murdered, the real
story does not fit Grace's "the killer thumbed his nose at
the justice system" narrative.
As a prosecutor,
it turns out that Grace also embraced lies, even when the truth
itself was strong enough for a conviction. In 1994, the Georgia
Supreme Court overturned a conviction in Bell
v. State because Grace “exceeded the wide latitude of closing
argument” by comparing this heroin case to unrelated cases involving
murder and rape.
While her conduct
in the Bell case might be explained by overzealousness by
the "justice-seeking" prosecutor, her contempt for simple
"due process of law" and "fairness" helped to
influence the Georgia Supreme Court to overturn a murder-arson conviction
against W.W. Carr.
But, it gets
even worse. It seems that Grace managed to move from overzealousness
to outright lying during court proceedings, with the U.S.
11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2005 that
she “played fast and loose” with her ethical duties, failing to
“fulfill her responsibilities” as a prosecutor in the 1990 triple
murder trial of Herbert Connell Stephens.
While the court
said that it could not prove that she used a detective's testimony,
knowing that it was false, nonetheless the justices wrote that it
was "difficult to conclude" that she had not lied. Grace,
it seems, had told jurors that there were no other arrest warrants
for others (from a detective's false testimony that Grace had used
during the trial) in the case when, in fact, she had been made aware
of those warrants before the trial began.
What is significant
here, I believe, is that the court did not overturn the murder
conviction despite Grace's misconduct. No doubt, Grace would argue
that this was a controversy over nothing, but as I see it, this
incident goes directly to her character: Grace lied in a trial in
an attempt to secure a conviction, even though the truth was enough
to convince jurors that the defendant was guilty. In other words,
she lied simply because she could do it.
By the time
the 11th Circuit noted Grace's lack of truthfulness,
she already was becoming a TV star, holding forth in an imperious
style first on Court TV and then with CNN. That national television
shows would hire someone who had lied while performing her duties
as an officer of the court tells us volumes about the desire for
veracity in the corporate offices of cable news outfits. Furthermore,
Grace's fractured telling of the story of her fiancé's murder
should have been enough to warn broadcast officials that she was
willing publicly to lie.
While I never
have had any personal contact with Grace (thank goodness), nonetheless
I know people who have had to deal with her accusing and dishonest
tongue. I have come to know a number of the families in the Duke
Lacrosse Case and to a person, they loathe Grace and everything
about her. This woman, literally not knowing one correct
fact in the case, nonetheless regularly slandered the players and
misrepresented DNA evidence, claiming on the air that the "flesh"
of David Evans was found under Crystal Mangum's fingernails. It
turned out that the "flesh" was a DNA mixture with 14
other young men on a false fingernail that was found in the trash
can in the bathroom where the rape allegedly occurred. Grace called
this "finding" a "home run" for the prosecution
when, in fact, it pointed to Nifong's dishonesty and ultimately
led to the case falling apart when his DNA "expert" under
oath confessed to professional misconduct.)
Craft case brings Grace even closer to my circle of friends.
Last year, Craft was acquitted of child molestation in a trial that
involved more prosecutorial, police, and judicial misconduct than
I ever have witnessed before. North Georgia jurors not only acquitted
her, but publicly declared that the case was a farce and said that
they knew the prosecutors were lying and the judge was teaming with
the prosecutors in an obvious attempt to frame Craft for something
that never happened.
supporting these charges was so tainted and so contrived that even
Nancy Grace should have seen what was happening. Instead, Grace
in her Pavlovian style told Craft that she was "guilty"
of all charges after Craft went to Grace's office to present the
facts to her.
Grace did not have personal contact with Craft, instead, sending
an assistant to tell Tonya, "She says you are guilty."
Furthermore, when Craft was acquitted after a month-long trial,
Grace did not air that result. Again, according to Grace, once there
is an indictment, guilt is always assumed and if a person is found
innocent, then that result either was due to "slick lawyers"
or jury misconduct.)
despite the fact that she represents the worst of prosecutorial
misconduct and openly is willing to defend lies by officers of the
court sworn to tell the truth, Grace is very popular. And why not?
Anyone who has been a victim of crime knows just how bad the government
system of "justice" can be, and Grace manipulates this
As I see it,
Grace has become the embodiment of modern American society, where
truth and the Rights of the Accused are openly despised. Unlike
nations like the former U.S.S.R., China, and Vietnam, where people
living under government tyranny have sought — sometimes at the cost
of their own lives — to be free, Americans have come to despise
their liberties and openly to support the worst of dictatorship.
off the American hatred for liberty and the lust of people for vengeance,
an attitude of "someone must pay, even if the person accused
is innocent." With Grace, anyone accused automatically is guilty,
and in Nasty Nancy Nation, that is the new standard of justice.
L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him
mail], teaches economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland,
and is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig
von Mises Institute. He
also is a consultant with American Economic Services. Visit