Is Nancy Grace A Big, Fat Liar?

Did Nancy Grace, TV Crimebuster, Muddy Her Myth?

By Rebecca Dana

Every crime-fighting superhero has a creation story. Nancy Grace, the prosecutor turned breakout star at CNN Headline News, has a particularly moving one. As she tells it, in the summer of 1980, she was a 19-year-old college student in small-town Georgia, engaged to Keith Griffin, a star third baseman for the Valdosta State University Blazers. The wedding was a few months away.

Then, one August morning, a stranger—a 24-year-old thug with a history of being on the wrong side of the law—accosted Griffin outside a convenience store. He shot him five times in the head and back, stole $35 from his wallet, and left him dead.

Police soon tracked down the killer, and a new phase of suffering began for Ms. Grace. The suspect brazenly denied any involvement. At trial, Ms. Grace testified, then waited as jury deliberations dragged on for three days. The district attorney asked her if she wanted the death penalty, and in a moment of youthful weakness, she said no. The verdict came back guilty—life in prison—and a string of appeals ensued.

For Nancy Grace, the ordeal she describes felt nothing like justice. And so the Shakespeare-loving teen set out to change the justice system: first as a bulldog prosecutor, then as a Court TV and CNN anchor, crusader for victims’ rights and professional vilifier of the criminal-defense industry.

Her message, delivered with a crackling blend of folksiness and wrath, has made her a hit on two cable networks. Defense attorneys are pigs—morally comparable, she said in a Feb. 20 interview with USA Today, to “guards at Auschwitz.” Her latest show, Nancy Grace, celebrated its first anniversary on CNN’s Headline News Network that week; in one year, its viewership has tripled, to 606,000 a night.

Because of what happened in Georgia, Ms. Grace has said over and over, she knows firsthand how the system favors hardened criminals over victims. It is the foundation of her judicial philosophy, her motivation in life, her casus belli.

And much of it isn’t true.

Nancy Grace was engaged to a man named Keith Griffin. He was murdered in Georgia. And the man who killed him is serving a life sentence. In that, Ms. Grace’s version lines up with the official records from the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, newspaper articles from the time of the murder, and interviews with many of those involved in the case.

But those same sources contradict Ms. Grace when it comes to other salient facts of the crime and the trial—the facts that form the basis of Ms. Grace’s crusade against an impotent, criminal-coddling legal system.

• Griffin 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.

• Prosecutors 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.

Ms. Grace has also misreported the date of the incident—it was in 1979, not 1980—and has given Griffin’s age as 25 when it was 23.

The justice system, in other words, apparently worked the way it was supposed to.

Read the rest of the story here.


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