The Untold Truth Of Nancy Grace

For better or worse, Nancy Grace has influenced the outcomes of some of the most memorable court cases in recent history — although perhaps not from a legal standpoint. Millions of viewers have relied on her as a sort of abrasive moral compass, and while her critics can say what they will, Grace has been nothing if not consistent. Whether debating marijuana legalization with 2 Chainz, shaming the mothers of lost children, or speculating wildly in her distinctively confrontational tone, she's played a key role in shaping modern American punditry.

Grace has also been a self-described "crusader for victims rights," arguably creating a few new victims in the process, and she's vowed to continue her work outside of the spotlight after leaving her top-rated HLN series in October 2015. Here's a closer look at the complicated identity of this controversial broadcast journalist.

Her fiancé was murdered

Before studying law, Grace pursued a degree in Shakespearean literature with the goal of becoming an English professor. At 19, her life and ambitions changed dramatically when her fiancé, Keith Griffin, was shot and killed by a former co-worker. Following his death, she enrolled in law school and went on to become a felony prosecutor and victims' rights advocate.

Years later, Grace was accused of embellishing the circumstances surrounding her fiancé's murder and the killer's trial to promote herself. She wrote about the crime in her 2005 book Objection! and referenced it in broadcasts countless times, citing it as her reason for becoming a prosecutor. In 2006, Grace was taken to task in an article in the Observer which pointed out numerous contradictions in her retelling of the story, though Grace has vehemently denied any dishonesty.

Two of her broadcasts have been linked to suicides

In 2006, Melinda Duckett appeared on Grace's show to discuss the disappearance of her 2-year-old son, Trenton. Grace pressed the mother for details, but Duckett had reportedly been advised not to elaborate, and she would not disclose whether a polygraph had been administered. Grace surmised publicly that Duckett should assume responsibility for the disappearance. Before the episode could air, Duckett shot and killed herself. The family blamed Grace's interview — and the resulting malice directed against Duckett from the public — for the suicide. The family filed a wrongful death suit against Grace and CNN. The settlement resulted in a $200,000 trust fund dedicated to finding Trenton.

In 2011, Toni Adrette Medrano accidentally killed her baby while sleeping on the couch with him. She told police she'd consumed a fifth of vodka the night before. When Grace covered the story, she referred to Medrano as the "Vodka Mom" and shamed her on air, demonstrating the amount consumed by placing a fifth of vodka on the table during her commentary. Medrano was subsequently charged with two counts of second-degree manslaughter, which would have resulted in a 10-year prison sentence upon conviction, but Grace argued that the charges were too light, saying Medrano should have been charged with murder. Three weeks later, Medrano committed suicide by setting herself on fire. Her family filed suit, calling Grace cruel and arguing that the cyber-bullying that followed her broadcast was a contributing factor in the suicide. Again, Grace settled with the family out of court.

She has inspired numerous fictional characters

Grace has appeared as herself in shows such as The Wire and Raising Hope, placed fifth in a season of Dancing with the Stars, and even starred in a six-episode run of her own cooking show, but one is just as likely to spot fictionalized versions of her persona on TV and film.

Grace has inspired episodes in numerous crime series, including Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, which based one storyline on the aforementioned suicide controversies, and Criminal Intent, which developed Faith Yancy, a recurring character believed to be based on Grace. The Onion pulls no punches with the character of Shelby Cross, a clear and regular sendup of Grace on its news network. She was represented in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and The Newsroom, and has been routinely mocked on Saturday Night Live over the years. Grace also reportedly inspired the character of Ellen Abbot in the bestseller (and subsequent hit film) Gone Girl, an imitation she referred to as flattering and funny.

She was accused of faking a split-screen interview

In 2013, Grace and CNN's Ashleigh Banfield were accused of faking a split-screen satellite interview while reporting on three women who escaped after being kidnapped in Ohio. The wacky scandal was exposed by The Wire, who noted a slew of bizarre details about the alleged satellite interview — like, you know, how the same cars appeared to be zipping past Grace and Banfield in the background and that they appeared to be standing in front of the same building. The alleged on-air flub drew so much attention that it was even ripped apart by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show — hilariously, we might add.

The lawsuits haven't stopped

Grace has been sued multiple times throughout her career. Among the most famous cases: In October 2014, she settled a lawsuit against Michael Skakel, who accused her of slander over comments she made in January 2012 about his murder trial. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Skakel was convicted of killing a woman in 2002 and released from prison 11 years later for a possible retrial. While discussing his case on her television show, Grace and her guest, Beth Karas, implied that Skakel's DNA had been found at the crime scene. However, no such evidence had ever been discussed during his trial. Skakel sued Grace, Karas, and Time Warner Inc., alleging their comments "hurt his reputation and ... chances of receiving a fair retrial." As part of the settlement, Grace published a correction stating she had "mistakenly reported that DNA evidence linking Michael Skakel to the murder of Martha Moxley was found at the crime scene."

Around the time of the settlement, another man sued Grace for defamation after Grace continued using his photo on air, even after police cleared him of any wrongdoing. According to The Associated Press (via the New York Post), the lawsuit alleged Grace "incorrectly told millions of viewers that Ben Seibert invaded a woman's home and snapped a photo of himself on her phone, which she described as a 'textbook serial killer's calling card.'"

One of her ex-employees despises her

When Grace confirmed in June 2016 that she was leaving HLN after 12 years, perhaps no one was more happy to see her go than former employee Mary Cella. "I'm celebrating Nancy Grace's departure from HLN by stomping on her headshot while wearing the shoes she threw at me one time," Cella tweeted. She added, "But first I'll hide in my cubicle, shaking in fear and sobbing uncontrollably for old time's sake!" Things escalated quickly: "Maybe I'll cap off the evening by finally going to the orgy she once asked me, in front of the whole staff, if I'd be attending after work," Cella wrote, later adding, "Honestly, if I saw Nancy, I'd wish her well, except I wouldn't recognize her because she looks like a blank sheet of paper without makeup."

All of this is basically one very public way of losing a letter of reference, but from the sounds of some of her final tweets, Cella probably couldn't give a you-know-what. "Tweeting about a former employer like this may not be classy, but I've seen Nancy eat her weight in waffles after 6pm, so it feels fair," she said.

Some celebrities hate her too

Throughout Grace's many years on HLN, a handful of celebrities have come out of the woodwork to express their disdain over her controversial coverage. Included on the list: actor Seth Rogen, who called Grace a "f***ing dumba**" on Twitter after she posted a handful of anti-marijuana tweets. "Hi Seth! Thx for watching!" Grace later replied, prompting model Chrissy Teigen to tweet: "He isn't watching. No one smart is watching. We are reading your dumba** tweets."

Meanwhile, sources for TMZ claimed in September 2011 that Love Story actor Ryan O'Neal dropped out of Dancing with the Stars because he "can't stand" Grace. According to the report, O'Neal — who publicly claimed he simply had a bad knee — was upset by Grace's coverage of his son's ongoing drug problems and suggestions that O'Neal had been a bad parent. Oh, and speaking of Dancing with the Stars...

Did she fart on national television?

In October 2011, the Internet went wild with speculation after a noise sounding very similar to a fart was heard during a televised post-dance interview with Grace on Dancing with the Stars. This led outlets such as TMZ to ponder if Grace had committed the on-air crime.

For her part, Grace told TMZ that an "investigation" was underway to find the perpetrator. "As an ear witness on the scene, I can absolutely exonerate Tristan [MacManus], myself and Brooke [Burke]." she said. "However, the rest of the cast—seated just inches away—all remain under grave suspicion. The investigation continues."

She feuded with the WWE

An April 2014 interview between Grace and WWE star Diamond Dallas Page took a turn for the awkward when Grace unexpectedly grilled Page on the sudden death of fellow wrestler The Ultimate Warrior. According to The Wrap, Grace implied the wrestler's death may have been caused by steroid use, and that many other wrestlers may have died too young from drug use. Page later tweeted about his appearance on the show, writing: "I went on Nancy Grace last night expecting to discuss Warrior the man. Had I known the only topic discussed would be steroids I would not have participated."

TMZ subsequently reported that the WWE was so upset with the interview, they warned other wrestlers to "stay away" from Grace's show "if they [want to] keep a working relationship." Yikes.

Jodi Arias blames Nancy Grace for her murder conviction

Jodi Arias made headlines over the salacious murder of ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander, but she blames her 2013 conviction (and her life sentence) not on the wealth of evidence at the crime scene, but on Nancy Grace. In a 342-page appeal filed in July 2018 (via Radar Online), Arias and her legal team stated that she wasn't given a fair trial because of the media coverage from Grace and fellow HLN personality Dr. Drew Pinsky. "The nightly commentary on Dr. Drew, HLN or Nancy Grace gave the trial a reality TV flavor, encouraging spectators to believe that their opinions could influence the verdict ... Perhaps they believed they could call or text in a vote at trial's end," the appeal read. "Maybe they wanted to vote Arias 'off of the island.' The court had a duty to protect Arias' trial from negative news exposure." 

Grace slammed Arias' claims, telling Radar Online, "I know who killed Travis Alexander, as does the jury: Jodi Arias. I think the appellate court will agree with me."

She stormed out of a radio interview

Nancy Grace stormed out of an interview on SiriusXM's Jim and Sam Show after she claimed the show's hosts, comedian Jim Norton and radio personality Sam Roberts, were disrespectful and adversarial toward her. Norton admitted to Grace about a minute into the 2016 interview, "I had a problem with you for a long time because I felt like you were capitalizing on tragedies." Grace handled that statement calmly, replying, "As a crime victim myself, I guess it's the way you look at the world. I invite crime victims on and tell stories from their point of view. I help find missing people and help solve unsolved homicides."

Norton conceded that she was an advocate for victims, but he said her hashtags (including the infamous "#totmom," as she called Casey Anthony) may be harmful. "You obviously don't like me," Grace said. "...You haven't asked one decent question since I've walked in here. Everything both of you have asked has been an attack." The contentious back and forth continued until Grace made a swift and pointed exit. 

"That went better than I thought it would," quipped Norton.

She may have influenced a trial and upended a prosecutor's career

In December 2017, The Seattle Times reported that a county prosecutor by the name of Mark Lindquist was accused of professional misconduct during a 2016 murder trial because he appeared on Grace's show and discussed a defendant's potential guilt. Defendant Skylar Nemetz was charged with first-degree murder of his wife, Danielle, who'd been shot in the back of the head; Nemetz claimed it was accidental. Lindquist appeared on Grace's show "on the eve of closing arguments," the Times reported. In the broadcast, Grace mocked Nemetz's tears during his time on the stand, while Lindquist said that Nemetz's actions "add up to murder." 

Nemetz was eventually convicted of first-degree manslaughter, but some say Lindquist's alleged publicity grab could have tainted the trial. Nemetz's defense attorney tried to file for a mistrial, saying Lindquist's appearance on the show could have influenced jurors, but the presiding judge — who'd watched the show — shot the motion down.