Nancy Grace has been a household name in the US, and for a good reason. Although she had several mishaps during her lengthy career, she has been an avid advocate for victims’ rights, and has graced the screens since 1997, devoting her time to share light on some of the most gruesome and chilling crimes. Today, we look at the horrid murder of her fiancé, whose death motivated Nancy to become what she is today!
Who is Nancy Grace?
Nancy Grace is a legal commentator, author, journalist and former prosecutor. who became known to the public by appearing in several programs and shows entitled “Closing Arguments,” “Nancy Show,” and “Swift Justice with Nancy Grace.” She was born on 23 October 1957, in Macon, Georgia, to parents Elizabeth and Mac Grace – her mother was a factory worker, while her father worked as a freight agent for Southern Railway. She has two older siblings, brother Mac Jr. and sister Ginny. Grace and her siblings grew up in a religious household, as the family were longtime members of the Macon’s Liberty United Methodist Church, where her father previously worked as a Sunday School Teacher. She matriculated from Macon’s Windsor Academy in 1977, and then attended Valdosta State University.
What inspired her to become a prosecutor and cold case investigator?
Having a strong interest in Shakespearean literature, Nancy initially wanted to pursue an academic career as an English teacher. However, her plans changed after her fiancé, Keith Griffin, was brutally murdered in August 1980, just a couple of months before their wedding. His murder was a turning point in her private and professional life, as she said: “When he was murdered, that changed everything for me. I wanted to do something but didn’t know what to do or how to do anything. I was lost. I almost missed the opportunity to have a family, to have children. I just couldn’t let go.”
Nancy, who was 19 at the time, majoring in English, dropped out of school and moved in with her sister, who was studying at Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Inconsolable, Nancy mourned the loss of her fiancé for months, crying endlessly. Talking to a media outlet in 2012, she said: “I remember it hit me: I would go to law school and maybe stop this from happening again.”
Always a blast on Watch What Happens Live with my friend Andy! xx NG
Nancy decided to study Law at Mercer University, graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree, later receiving her Juris Doctor, a doctorate in Law, from the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer, where she also wrote columns for the journal Law Review. Adamant in furthering her knowledge, she enrolled at New York University and earned a Master of Laws in constitutional and criminal law.
What happened to Keith Griffin?
The 25-year-old Keith Griffin, going through school on a baseball scholarship, was shot by his former co-worker Tommy McCoy- a man who had previously been fired from a construction site where they worked together. Tommy, 24 at the time and with a long history of criminal activities, accosted Keith outside a convenience store and shot him five times in the head, neck and back before stealing $35 from his wallet and leaving him to bleed out in the street. He was alive when the ambulance came and was treated in a hospital, but his wounds were so severe that he didn’t pull through. Nancy and Keith met in college and dated for two years before he was killed. In her interview with Larry King, she said he wanted to pursue geology, and even had standing job offers with several oil companies.
In the interview, she also recalled the moment she found out about his death, saying: ‘I was coming out of an exam, and headed to my job at the library and I received a phone call from my fiancé’s sister and I knew immediately that he was gone. I hung the phone and later I found out that he was murdered. At that moment I could not take it in.’
Law enforcement quickly tracked down Tommy, who initially denied having any involvement in the murder. He was taken to the trial, where Grace testified, and after three days of deliberation, the jury found him guilty. Initially, the district attorney asked her if she wanted to push for the death penalty, and she replied ‘No’, so Tommy was sentenced to life in prison. Still, for Nancy, the whole ordeal was a far cry from justice being served which fueled her passion for becoming a prosecutor and changing the justice system. She disclosed in numerous interviews that killing her fiancé motivated her to become a prosecutor, serving as a foundation of her judicial philosophy.
We asked Nancy Grace what prompted her move from the courtroom to television. Check out what she said and tune in for her new show, "Injustice with Nancy Grace" Saturdays at 6/5c on @oxygen. pic.twitter.com/2FvbrSuKrS
— Cox (@CoxComm) July 27, 2019
Nancy said: ‘I only cared about one thing: putting the bad guy in jail, and I would do anything, within the law, to do that and I didn’t care how bad my reputation was, what they said in the newspaper. It did not matter to me, and I did not, and do not, care.” She also added that her appetite for putting bad guys away became ‘insatiable.’
Career as a Prosecutor
Before becoming a prosecutor, Nancy wrote various articles, columns and opinion pieces for legal trade magazines, such as American Bar Association Journal. She went on to work as a clerk for a deferral court judge, and started practicing anti-trust and consumer protection law with the Federal Trade Commission. She was also employed at the Georgia State University of Law GSU’s School of Business, where she taught litigation and business law.
In the following decade, Nancy worked as a Special Prosecutor in the District Attorney’s office in Atlanta-Fulton County, Georgia. She mainly worked on felony cases pertaining to serial crimes, including rape, murder, and child molestation. Driven and focused, Nancy had a highly appraised undefeated streak that stretched more than 80 cases. As an individual who had felt the loss of a loved one first-hand, she could convey emotion and create a connection with the jury, displaying passion and determination.
Although Nancy was known as a fierce and ruthless pursuer of justice, she made several mistakes that tarnished her career as a prosecutor. In 1997, she was reprimanded by the Supreme Court of Georgia for withholding evidence and making offensive comments in an arson and murder case. As a result, the court overturned the conviction, and stated that Grace’s conduct “demonstrated her disregard of the notion of due process and fairness, and was inexcusable’.
There was another instance where she was yet again reprimanded by the court; in 2005 Judge William H. Pryor, Jr. found that she ‘played fast and loose’ with ethical rules in a 1990 murder case. She was accused of withholding evidence and intentionally allowing a police detective to give a false account of events under oath. In this case, the conviction was not overturned, despite her misconduct. Grace ultimately left the prosecutor’s office after the District Attorney, Dewis Slaton whom she worked for, chose not to run for re-election.
Nancy Grace as a Broadcaster
After leaving the prosecutor’s office, she kicked off her media career following an offer from the founder Court TV (later TruTv), Steven Brill; he wanted Nancy to host a legal commentary show with Johnnie Cochran. After her co-host, Johnnie, departed from the show, she began doing solo trial coverage on Court TV, entitled “Trial Heat,” which she hosted from 1996 to 2004. After that project ended, she moved to another legal show entitled “Closing Arguments” from 2004 through 2007, replacing former hosts Lisa Bloom and James Curtis.
In 2005 she launched her own primetime legal analysis show “Nancy Grace” on CNN Headline News. However, given that she was torn between working on her show and Court TV, she announced her exit, explaining that she wanted to focus on her CNN Headlines News Program and charity. Her last show on Court TV was in June 2007 – her role as a legal commentator had earned her awe and two Gracie Awards from Alliance for Women in Media Foundation.
In 2010 she launched another show entitled “Swift Justice with Nancy Grace”, which ran until May 2011, Grace leaving the show because the production was moved from Atlanta to Los Angeles. On her shows, she discussed various high-profile cases, such as the trial of Casey Anthony, the mother who allegedly killed her daughter Caylee and was later found not guilty. In 2016 she ended her show following the end of her contract.
— Josh Sabarra (@JoshSabarra) July 13, 2019
In 2019 she hosted a true-crime series, “Injustice with Nancy Grace,” which sheds light on riveting stories, botched investigations, unjust accusations, suppressed evidence and mind-boggling sentences. Recently, she has weighed in on Amber Heard’s defamation case; talking to Fox News, she said: ‘As to the verdict that has just come down in the last few hours, as I said at the get-go, it is like two wet cats in the bell. The only question was which was going to crawl up on top of the other. In this case, Depp crawled out on top.”
Even though Nancy Grace became synonymous with justice, and rose through the ranks as an outspoken advocate, providing the voice for the voiceless and helpless, her methods and comments have been a focal point for various controversies over the years. While her straightforward style and intimidating tactics might have been glorified in the courtroom, this type of approach would later cost her heavily.
She was Linked to Suicides
In 2006, two-year-old boy Trenton Duckett disappeared. His mother, Melinda Duckett, called the police and reported the missing child, which resulted in search parties and media coverage of the case. Nancy hopped on the bandwagon, and invited Melinda for an interview in September to talk about the disappearance. Nancy pressured the seemingly confused mother, and grilled her for answers, implying that she had something to do with her son’s disappearance. Nancy asked: “Where were you? Why aren’t you telling us where you were that day?” Melinda seemed befuddled and struggled to utter words, which only fueled Nancy, who continued with her questions: ‘Why can’t you account for specific details? Ms. Duckettt, you are not telling us for a reason. What is the reason?” The following day, before the episode was aired, Melinda committed suicide by shooting herself, which her family attributed to the media scrutiny caused by Nancy.
One of Melinda’s relatives talked to the media and said: ‘Nancy Grace and the others, they just bashed her to the end. She was not one anyone ever would have thought of to do something like this.’ Nancy received a lot of backlash, especially given that police hadn’t named Melinda a suspect in the case. However, Nancy’s answer shocked the public even more; she said: ‘I would suggest that guilt made her commit suicide. To suggest that a 15- or 20-minute interview can cause someone to commit suicide is focusing on the wrong thing. I do not feel that our show is to blame for what happened to Melinda Duckett. The truth is not always nice or polite or easy to go down.’ Unfortunately, Trenton, was never found and so remains missing to this day.
Then in 2011, Toni Medrano accidentally killed her 3-week baby, Adrian, while sleeping with him on the sofa. Toni told the police that she had consumed more vodka the previous night before going to sleep with Adrian. Nancy reported on the case, dubbed Toni as “Vodka Mom,” and even appeared on the show, pouring a large glass of vodka to demonstrate how much the mother drank. Toni was charged with second-degree manslaughter, while Nancy openly called her out on the show, saying: ‘The baby is dead because of vodka mommy’ and even claimed that it was a murder, not an accident. As with Melinda, Toni committed suicide by setting herself on fire, and dying five days later due to the severity of her burns. Both families of Melina and Toni sued Nancy, blaming her for the suicides and public shame after her interviews. She settled both cases out of court.
Faking a split-screen interview
In 2013, Grace and CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield were accused of faking a split-screen interview while covering the story of three women who escaped after being kidnapped in Phoenix, Ohio. The fake interview was uncovered by Dashiell Bennett and Philip Bump of The Atlantic Wire, who noted some bizarre details about the alleged ‘satellite-interview’, such as the Nissan Xterra traveling at warp speed in the background of the interview. It turned out it was not a super-fast car in question, but an average car traveling through two shots framed extremely close together, and later combined to make it look like a split-screen interview – when you look closely at the interview footage, its evident that Ashleigh and Grace are standing in the same parking lot. It was revealed that Nancy’s Headline News and Ashleigh’s CNN are sister networks; either anchor could have walked a few feet, and the two could have spoken directly. Later, there were rumors that the two anchors did not like each other, and refused to speak directly. Nancy and Ashleigh never made any comment regarding this interview.
When Nancy announced that she was leaving Headline News after 12 years, one of her ex-employees, Mary Cella, hilariously celebrated her departure. In a series of tweets, Mary revealed her thoughts about Nancy, without sparing any unpleasant details; Mary wrote: ‘I’m celebrating Nancy Grace’s departure from HLN by stomping on her headshot while wearing the shoes threw at me one time.’ She didn’t stop there, and continued spilling beans on her experience working with Nancy, ‘But first I’ll hide in my cubicle, shaking in fear and sobbing uncontrollably for old time’s sake.’ In other tweets, she implied that Nancy asked her once to attend an orgy party in front of the whole staff, and screamed at her about a box of tissues.
Whether you hate her or love her, it’s undeniable that Nancy Grace has left a mark on the judicial system, and has helped to shape the American public’s perception about victim’s rights. As a victim herself, who had lost her fiancé to such a pointless murder, who is better to share insight and call for justice, if not her?