Thanks to the redoubtable Tim Rutten and his “Regarding Media” column in the Los Angeles Times, I can come up with more evidence that CNN’s proud if misguided “All the News You Can Trust” label should be forever dispensed with.
He just did a piece on Nancy Grace, an ex-prosecuting attorney, who can be seen for an hour every evening, in prime time, on CNN’s Headline News channel, with her comments on the trusted legal news of the day.
It should be noted that unlike defense attorneys, prosecuting attorneys have an ethical duty to seek justice and not simply to win cases. Which is a good start if one is to expect balance, fairness and independent judgment (like what we’re getting in the Michael Jackson trial?).
Let’s examine her record, according to Rutten’s independent research.
“On three occasions involving three separate cases, appellate courts have cited Grace for unethical behavior while she was a Fulton County prosecutor.
“The most recent of those admonitions came last week, when a published opinion from the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals concurred with lower court findings that Grace had “played fast and loose” with her ethical duties as a prosecutor in a 1990 triple-murder case. The lower courts had admonished Grace for failing to disclose the existence of other suspects in the case and for knowingly allowing a police detective to testify falsely regarding the matter. The appeals court, however, also concurred that Grace’s misconduct did not affect the outcome of the case.
“Writing for a unanimous three-judge panel, Justice William H. Pryor Jr. wrote that the lower courts were right to uphold the defendant’s conviction “despite the failure of the prosecutor to fulfill her responsibilities.”
“The 11th Circuit is the nation’s most conservative, and Pryor, a former Alabama attorney general, is sitting as a recess appointment because his is one of President Bush’s nominations to the federal court that Senate Democrats are threatening to block. Hardly, in other words, a court likely to be “soft on crime.”
“In 1997, the Georgia State Supreme Court overturned a conviction Grace had won in the case of a man accused of arson and murder. Although the reversal turned on other issues, the court found that she had withheld evidence to which the defense was entitled and had made improper opening and closing statements. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Robert Benham noted that Grace’s conduct “in this case demonstrated her disregard of the notions of due process and fairness and was inexcusable.”
“In 1994, a 6-1 majority of Georgia’s highest court also overturned the conviction of a heroin trafficker Grace had prosecuted, again citing her for making an improper final argument.”
How many citations of ethical misconduct will it take before CNN feels some obligation to at least inform its viewers of these facts concerning its star commentator’s credentials?
This blogger, for one, feels that it is a conflict of interest for any practicing attorney to be given the airwaves in this way at all for other than occasional commentary and obviously slanted opinion concerning the legal news of the day, to include contrary opinion from other attorneys (always available). The working history of any single attorney is murky at best.
An ex-practitioner she is not. We are told that she had prosecuted more than 100 jury trials during her nine years in Atlanta. Some considerable number of those verdicts must still be under appeal.