Nancy Grace's Amazing (Lack of) Grace

Conservatives get a bad rap for being out of touch with pop culture and intolerant of its diversity. In fact, we are well aware that “You’re So Vain” was written by singer Carl E. Simon and we forgive him for that high-pitched voice. But you can see how that misconception was misconceived. After all, law-and-order types and showbiz types tend to have different interests, sharing only an affinity for side bars. Mark my words, never the twain should have met; but meet they now do, with disastrous consequences, in the person of Nancy Grace.

In the past I have been reluctant to diss Grace, although there has been a bandwagon riding down that road. Grace is one of those rare individuals who is named after a TV show, and an eponym cannot be an anonym. Not everyone says grace over her show or her persona; often they throw the missal right back at her. It occurred to me that much of that was professional jealousy, snippy snippets of sniping best taken with a grain of salt. As a woman whose fiancée was murdered and who never lost a felony case as a prosecutor, she was entitled to the benefit of the doubt.

No more. Last week’s news is serious enough that she should lose her job and become yesterday’s news. She has lost perspective of her role, segueing from crime news anchor and show host back into a prosecutorial fantasy. In the process, real people have been hurt in the real world. The show must not go on.

Here is the story, perhaps bigger here in Florida than elsewhere. In the town of Leesburg, near Orlando, a couple named Joshua and Melinda Duckett were divorcing, and the custody of their 2-year-old son, Trenton, was a bone of fierce contention. Suddenly the mother, aged just 21 herself, reported that the child had disappeared from his crib, apparently abducted by someone who cut through the screen window. Police began a major search, including a statewide Amber Alert, for the missing child.

As is customary in such cases, some suspicion attaches to the parents. Melinda was questioned closely about the circumstances, but she declined to take a polygraph test on the advice of her attorney. Joshua, the father, one-upped her by submitting to the lie detector. The authorities appeared to accept their versions of events and the matter remained a painful mystery. The family was in a sad state, hoping that life would offer them some grace. Instead they got Grace, asking to interview Melinda. No big deal, can be done over the phone. Sure, why not?

Grace’s patented cross-examining style was patently inappropriate in this context. The young mother, undoubtedly expecting sympathy for her plight, was subjected to a series of scathing queries, alternately implying a critique of her maternal supervision and suspicion about the veracity of her account. At one point Ms. Grace was pounding the table and demanding loudly: “Where were you?  Why aren’t you telling us where you were that day?”  Melinda’s grandmother had to step in and take the phone away, saying her granddaughter was not up to all this pressure.

Well, Grandma was right. The next day Melinda took Grandpa’s gun and ended her own life. It was all too much for her. Originally adopted from Korea, she had struggled to adjust all through high school, eventually finding a measure of peace at the home of her grandparents. She married her high-school sweetheart, hastened no doubt by the pregnancy. They wrestled with the new responsibilities and eventually it all fell apart. Very little had worked for her in this life: the bio parents, the adoptive parents, the husband, now the child, all gone awfully awry. Not to be, that was her tragic answer.

The treatment meted out by the great heroic crime-buster, sitting at her cushy desk in her swanky New York studio, is appalling. Grace has been derided for being too tough on people whose guilt was not proven in court, but I shed no tears for her maligning of Simpson, Blake and Jackson. Melinda Duckett is another story. She was entitled to more than a presumption of innocence; she was entitled to a presumption of victimhood. Nancy Grace has blood on her microphone.

Had Ms. Grace chosen to remain in the business of law and order, I would say “By all means”. Had she chosen a career as a performer and commentator, then again “Be my guest.” Instead she has mutated into a grotesque menace that poisons both fields simultaneously and ruins lives in the process. No grace period for her: she needs to go now. Give the show to someone who knows that she is not a lawyer, just plays one on TV. As Carl E. Simon once sang, back when he was paired with Garfunkel: “The words of the prophets are … in the sounds of silence.”