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Anthony trial a showcase for HLN's Nancy Grace

By David Bauder

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, July 9 2011 1:41 p.m. MDT

Dan Abrams, ABC legal analyst, said Grace has never pretended to be a journalist and is instead an activist-analyst. During the Anthony trial, Abrams and Grace discussed the case during regular joint appearances on "Good Morning America."

"I often wholeheartedly disagree with Nancy's analysis and, as I'm watching her, sometimes I'm rolling my eyes," Abrams said. "That said, I respect the fact that she's transparent with the viewers about how she feels. There's no mistaking what Nancy Grace's take is on a story. She may be wrong. She may be unfair. But I think that the viewers are smart enough to make that decision about whether they agree."

She's been an important advocate on behalf of crime victims and children's' rights, keeping up the momentum on cases that might otherwise have been forgotten, said Pattie Fitzgerald, founder of Safely Ever After, a California organization that develops school curriculum to teach children how to combat abuse.

Grace strongly went after the alleged rapists in the 2006 Duke University lacrosse case. The accusations turned out to be false and all three lacrosse players were declared innocent. Grace also devoted a lot of time to the Natalee Holloway case and the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping.

But Fitzgerald said Grace often crosses the line by being too one-sided. "Everyone is guilty," she said.

Grace last year settled a wrongful death lawsuit with the parents of Melinda Duckett, a 21-year-old mother of a missing son, who committed suicide in 2006 the day a pre-taped interview with Grace was about to air. The lawsuit accused Grace of inflicting emotional distress on Duckett with her questions and saying the woman was hiding something because she did not take a lie detector test. Police later said Duckett was the prime suspect in the 2-year-old boy's disappearance.

Ilene Farmer, a lawyer in Baltimore's public defender's office, said Grace has undermined respect for the jury system the way she has spoken out against the Anthony verdict. She said she's worried that someone who disagrees with the verdict, whipped up by Grace's disgust, will harm some of the jurors.

ABC's Terry Moran on "Nightline" asked Grace if some of what she does could be perceived as unethical.

"The day that it is unethical to care about the murder of a 2-year-old little girl who ends up duct-taped and thrown into a swamp is the day that I, too, will retire and rue the justice system," she said.

She said on the CNN blog that she'd like to see Anthony admit guilt. "Other than that, I'm not in the business of forgiving," she said. "That's up to the Lord. I'm just relieved that I believe, that I know, Caylee is in a place where her mother can't hurt her anymore."

HLN, the former CNN Headline News, struck gold by following Grace's interest in the Anthony case and giving full coverage to the trial. Years ago that would have been a niche for Court TV, but that network was converted to TruTV and largely shows flashy nonfiction programming.

HLN isn't letting go until every ounce of interest is squeezed from the case. Its executives largely scrapped the network's weekend schedule to run nearly wall-to-wall Anthony material, much of it hosted by Grace.

Scot Safon, HLN's chief executive, said he was very comfortable with how Grace presented the case. The only thing Grace would have done different, she said in the CNN blog, "is put on my hip boots and gone down to Florida and looked for Caylee myself."

Online:

http://www.cnn.com/hln

EDITOR'S NOTE — David Bauder can be reached at dbauder"at"ap.org

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