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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Inteview With Nancy Grace

Aired January 23, 2003 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight: Exclusive.
Nancy Grace of "Court TV" as you've never seen her before. The tough former prosecutor has been keeping a lot of pain inside for years. Because just two weeks before her wedding, her fiance was brutally murdered. And now, for the first time, she opens up about the tragedy that changed her life forever. Nancy Grace is an intense, emotional hour is next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Nancy Grace is our special guest tonight. That's not unusual to hear on LARRY KING LIVE, because she's been with us so many times. But tonight's a little different, because we're going to find out who Nancy Grace is. You've seen her, you know how vituperative she can be. In the history of this program, she has probably caused the most pro and con at the same time. People hate her or love her. And they have reasons to. She can be angry, she is very forceful, she's a great television personality, she has her own slot, of course, on Court TV, "Trial Heat." We understand she may be doing a talk show of her own, some pilots in the question. We'll get to that much later on.

We thought we'd spend tonight learning about who Nancy Grace is, and how she got to be the way she is. Where did you grow up?

NANCY GRACE, FMR. PROSECUTOR: Larry, I grew up in Macon, Georgia. It's a very tiny town about an hour and a half south of Atlanta.

KING: Always wanted to be a lawyer?

GRACE: No, as a matter of fact I wanted to be an English teacher. I majored in Shakespearian studies at a very tiny school in Georgia. And that was my intent.

KING: What did your dad do?

GRACE: My father was a railroad man his entire life. Forty- three years for Southern Railroad.

KING: Did you get to ride trains?

GRACE: Got to ride trains, and I got to watch my dad and my mom at work.

KING: Were you a high school cheerleader? Some one told me -- were you?

GRACE: That was a fluke, Larry.

KING: I'm trying to picture you throwing a baton.

GRACE: The only reason I became a cheerleader is because I was the only girl in the entire school that got cut from the basketball team. OK? The only one. So I became a cheerleader.

KING: Why were you cut, Nancy?

GRACE: Well, I could hardly throw the ball. I ran my heart out. Yes, I'm only 5'1", Larry. I'm really not that great on a basketball court.

KING: You've told us your favorite character of all time was Atticus Finch of "To Kill a Mockingbird," right?

GRACE: Yes.

KING: And that was a defense attorney.

GRACE: That's true, but, Larry, he spoke the truth. In fact, that's my prized possession. I have "To Kill a Mockingbird" signed by Harper Lee.

KING: Oooo.

GRACE: That's my prized possession. Yes.

KING: Save that.

GRACE: Yes.

KING: That's no small thing. Where did you go to college?

GRACE: I went to Mercer University and studied Shakespearian literature. I went to Mercer Law School and then...

KING: Why law school if you wanted to do literature?

GRACE: Well, a series of events. I loved literature and my hope was to be an English professor in college. But shortly before my graduation, I recall it distinctly, I was coming out of an exam...

KING: You were a senior in...

GRACE: In college. In undergrad.

KING: Undergrad.

GRACE: ...and was headed to my job at the library. And I received a phone call from my fiance's sister. And something in me, I knew immediately that Keith was dead.

KING: Back a little. How long had you been going with him?

GRACE: We had been together over two years. KING: Met him in college?

GRACE: Engaged. He was going through school on a baseball scholarship.

KING: Oh, he was a player.

GRACE: Yes.

KING: Good player?

GRACE: In fact, I was looking at being drafted by the semi-pros. He was very good, third base.

KING: Did he want to go to post-grad or did he want to be a professional player?

GRACE: No, he thought about it, but he wanted to go into geology and already had a job offer with oil firms. Oil companies.

KING: So had he lived, he would have been out doing geology and you would have been teaching Shakespeare wherever he...

GRACE: A schoolteacher with a family and who knows what by now.

KING: How was he killed?

GRACE: Keith had a summer job with a friend of his father's. And they were out in a remote area in a construction site, building in a very rural area. And he left that day as a favor to go get everybody their soft drinks. They were so far away from everything -- to have with their lunches. And when he came back...

KING: He was how old?

GRACE: Keith was 25. When he came back, he was basically ambushed and mugged in the outback (ph).

KING: For profit, you mean?

GRACE: Yes. I think he had $35 and a picture of me in his wallet. That's one of the ways everyone was identified. The wallet was later discovered in the possession of the man that killed him.

He was shot five times, Larry. And he was still alive when he got to the hospital. And to this day, I just pray that he could not feel...

KING: The pain. Were a few people involved in this?

GRACE: Just one. And he went to trial.

KING: I want to get to that in a minute. The sister told you what?

GRACE: Well, you know, when I describe it, I very rarely discuss it. Because it still -- this many, many years later, well over 15 years later, still very, very upsetting.

KING: And very vivid.

GRACE: Yes, it seems like it was yesterday as I'm sitting here with you. And I remember, I so clearly -- I couldn't even go to the library, to my job.

KING: Did the sister say he was dead or just shot?

GRACE: No, it wasn't like that at all. I called -- I had to stop at a pay phone on campus because I couldn't make it all the way to the library.

KING: What had she told you?

GRACE: Nothing. I called. She picked up the phone. And I -- I knew, Larry. I knew. I don't know how I knew. And I said, "Is Keith gone?" and she said, "Yes."

KING: Out of nowhere, you said this?

GRACE: I just knew. And I remember when I tried to put the phone back, my hands were like butterflies. Like they weren't even attached to my body. I couldn't think. I didn't even know what had happened. I hung the phone up. And then only later did I find out that he had been murdered.

In fact, I didn't even know where to go. And I went to our local church because nobody was at home. There was nowhere to go. And I just went there. Because I knew somebody would be there.

KING: Why didn't you stay on the phone with the sister?

GRACE: I don't know, Larry. I really -- you know why? What else was there to know?

KING: What happened? Where is he?

GRACE: In my mind, all that mattered was he was dead.

KING: How did you then finally find out the story? What resolved?

GRACE: Well, at that moment, I -- I just couldn't take it in. I didn't think it was true. And I went to a family friend, and they got on the phone, and I was on the other side of the table, and I saw them write the name of the funeral home upside down.

And when I saw that, I knew that he really -- he was dead. That it -- it hadn't been an accident, I couldn't get to him, there was nothing I could do. I saw that funeral home across the table, and I just put my head down.

KING: Did you have a wedding date?

GRACE: Yes, we had a date set for when I get out of my next semester. And a trip.

KING: Did you know his parents well?

GRACE: Very well.

KING: And they knew your parents, et cetera.

GRACE: Yes, yes.

KING: Did you then go to the funeral home? What did you then do?

GRACE: The next thing I remember was the funeral. And it was a blur. I could hardly see. My eyes and my face were raw from crying.

KING: You were deeply in love.

GRACE: He was the love of my life.

KING: We'll be back with more of Nancy Grace as we learn the whole story of maybe why Nancy is the way she is. We are products of two things: our genes and our environment. And her environment went helter skelter.

We'll be right back.

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: Welcome back to "Trial Heat," everybody. We are waiting for Judge Mudd to formally sentence David Allen Westerfield, we think to the California death penalty. Mode of death in that jurisdiction, the needle. Lethal injection.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Our guest is Nancy Grace.

Did this then prompt you to go to law school? How did this change your life, other than a great loss?

GRACE: Well, I dropped out of school. I didn't know what I was going to do.

KING: Dropped out of school as a senior?

I couldn't think. I couldn't eat. I lost, gosh, I think I lost over 30 pounds. I went to Philadelphia and lived with my sister for a while. And then I...

KING: Did nothing?

GRACE: No. The thought of going into a classroom, to finish school even or to even teach, which is what I had wanted to do, the thought of being in the classroom, looking out the window, wondering. And I knew I couldn't be a teacher. And then I knew I wanted to work with victims. And somehow put a band-aid on...

KING: So you went back to Georgia. Did you then get involved in the case of the person who did it?

GRACE: Yes, I was a witness in the case.

KING: Finished school?

GRACE: I finished school with fantastic grades, because that was my life at that point.

KING: Was the killer apprehended quickly?

GRACE: Yes. He was -- he was caught quickly. And what's -- one of the many disturbing things, there's so many disturbing things about a short life, a young life being cut down that way. But this perpetrator had been in and out of trouble. And I always wonder, if someone had cared about the case, not necessarily throw them behind bars and toss the key, but to rehab the person, or to throw them behind bars, to get him off the street.

KING: How old was he?

GRACE: He was -- the perp was 24.

KING: Did you like go to the trial?

GRACE: Yes. And you know what, I would have to drive a long way to get to the trial. And you know what? I don't even remember the drive. I just remember looking at the road, knowing I had to go, knowing I didn't want to go. And I remember when I went in that courtroom, it was a big old courtroom. The witness stand way up. And I walked in, and I looked down, and there he was. And he never even could look up at me. I watched him the whole testimony. Looking down.

KING: He testified?

GRACE: I testified.

KING: You did? How were you relevant to testify?

GRACE: Well, now as a prosecutor I realize that I was used in front of the jury to humanize the victim.

KING: How?

GRACE: I was used to identify the wallet, the photo of myself, the last time...

KING: The prosecutor used you?

GRACE: Correctly. KING: To create sympathy?

GRACE: To show that he was not just a name on an...

KING: Why do you need sympathy with a person who's been killed.

GRACE: Well, when you have a jury, you have 12 human beings that will look at the defendant and feel sorry for being charged, being put on trial, like everyone does. What about the victim? Nothing but me.

KING: Did the defendant take the stand?

GRACE: The defendant did not take the stand.

KING: Did he have -- what kind of defense?

GRACE: He had an excellent defense.

KING: Their reasoning was what? That he didn't do it? That they got the wrong guy.

GRACE: Didn't do it. Didn't do it, wrong guy. Wrong place, wrong time.

KING: How long was the jury out?

GRACE: I think the jury was out three days.

KING: What was that like for you?

GRACE: At that point, nothing mattered to me. I didn't even matter. What the jury did didn't matter, the defendant didn't matter, nothing mattered. All that mattered was that somewhere, the world had been spinning, and all of a sudden, it stopped.

KING: Did you firmly believe he was the correct defendant?

GRACE: Yes, I did.

KING: The facts of the case were of no doubt to you? There wasn't a time where you said, maybe they got the wrong guy?

GRACE: No, not after I heard the facts and after I saw his record. But I recall this, I recall that he could not look me in the face. He could not meet my eyes. Because he knew what he had done.

KING: What happened when the jury came back?

GRACE: Well, he was found guilty. There was no emotion.

KING: What was that moment like for you?

GRACE: Empty.

KING: No great feeling of getting even? GRACE: Every verdict that I bring in at Court TV, and every verdict that I brought home as a prosecutor of violent felony crimes, 10 years, Larry, over 100 jury trials. I would work the case, work, work, work, 12, 1:00 in the morning, get the verdict. It always felt the same way. Because in the end, you know justice has been done. As much as you can bring it about. But still, the victim is dead. The family's hearts are broken. But at least you've done what you could.

KING: How about when you lost a case? Was that worse? Did it get worst?

GRACE: Is this a trick question?

GRACE: No. Nobody wins every case. Do you win every case? You've never lost a case?

GRACE: Knock on wood.

KING: You've got to plea bargain some cases?

GRACE: Yes. I had a case load of many, many thousand cases a year.

KING: You've never had, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, how do you find, not guilty?

You've never heard the words not guilty in a courtroom where you were prosecuting?

GRACE: Never.

KING: Was it tough for you to plea bargain?

GRACE: Yes. You know why? Even, I'd get the file, open the case, it would be a drug case, two hits of cocaine. I'd go, but he had a gun. Now, how do I know the next time he's not going to shoot the cop? Then whose fault is that going to be? Mine.

KING: Back to the verdict, guilty. Is there then a second phase, was there a phase of...

GRACE: There was a series of appeals.

KING: Do you have then, do you get the death penalty or not? Or did that not enter into in?

GRACE: That did enter into it.

KING: There was a penalty phase?

GRACE: No.

KING: What happened?

GRACE: I've second-guessed this decision many, many times. But at that time in my life, contrary to your belief, I was asked, did I want to seek the death penalty? In my youth, I said no.

KING: Are you sorry?

GRACE: Yes.

KING: Did he get life?

GRACE: Yes, he did.

KING: He's still living?

GRACE: Yes, he is.

KING: Serving a sentence?

GRACE: Serving a sentence.

KING: Eligible for parole?

GRACE: Correct.

KING: 25 years, life? You wanted him to die, in retrospect?

GRACE: In retrospect, it's not that I want him to die, I'm not blood thirsty vampirist stalking the court house. But in retrospect, he took a life. He ruined the lives of other people. For what? Yes, I think the death penalty, in retrospect, would have been appropriate.

KING: Thirty-five dollars.

GRACE: And a picture.

KING: We'll be back with Nancy Grace. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: What Corinthians said is, Without love, you are nothing. That is plain and simple. All the noise and the yelling and the clanging cymbals I've heard comes from right over there. And what I want to do is calmly go through the evidence with you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back with Nancy Grace. Did you then say, because of all of this, I wanted to be a lawyer?

GRACE: Well, I knew I couldn't be happy in a classroom anymore. Just looking out the window at the world rushing by, thinking that somehow, if I got one of those cases, that I could seek justice and some other person would not have their beloved murdered by someone that should have been handled 10 years before.

And that is what I did every day of my life as a prosecutor. I'm grateful for that opportunity... KING: So you knew when you went to law school, you wanted to prosecute? You didn't want to be a defense attorney?

GRACE: No. No.

KING: That was your goal?

GRACE: No interest in money. No interest in slip and falls, contracts, celebrity clients, forget about it. I wanted to be a victim's rights advocate, and I wanted to change the world. Or at least put a Band-Aid on it.

KING: And so you thought you could do it best as a prosecutor in a courthouse in Atlanta?

GRACE: As a prosecutor of violent felonies. I didn't care where I ended up. I just wanted violent felonies and a huge case load. That's all I wanted.

KING: Every prosecutor can't say that though. They can't go into the D.A.'s office and say, I will only prosecute...

GRACE: You are so correct.

KING: You've got to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) traffic cases first.

GRACE: Let me tell you something, I had to convince the elected district attorney, who became like a grandfather to me, Mr. Slaten (ph) in Atlanta, to let me be a prosecutor, let me go into court. There were not a lot of women handling multiple murder trials, serial murder cases.

(CROSSTALK)

GRACE: A lot of them would get child court, juvenile court or child support recovery or appellate division.

KING: Did you have to do any of that?

GRACE: Sure, yes.

KING: You have to work your way in, right? How long before you got your first violent case?

GRACE: I had been at the district attorney's office, trying cases, for about three years.

KING: Doing all sorts of stuff?

GRACE: Everything. You name it. Drawing up indictments, doing child support recovery, juvie cases where kids would steal a pack of gum, you name it.

KING: But all the time, one goal.

GRACE: One. KING: What was your first case in that order, in that line of violence?

GRACE: It was a murder. My first violent crime prosecution was a murder of a young girl named Mary. I remember her right now.

And you know what I remember? I remember her autopsy photo. She was asphyxiated, strangled with a plastic laundry bag. And she tried so hard to live. She breathed the bag in. And I opened the file, and there's a Polaroid of a dead lady with a laundry bag breathed up her nose and mouth.

That was my first murder case.

KING: Was it easy?

GRACE: No. It was very difficult. I put in hundreds of hours. But to look the jury in the eye and say, Convict him was very easy. Because I did very much my own investigation to make sure I was doing the right thing. I don't want to put the wrong guy in the clink.

KING: Now when some people get as tunnel visioned as it would appear you get based on the circumstances, there's this tendency to believe everybody arrested did it, isn't there? If he's brought in, he must have brought something wrong. Why would he be brought in?

I've had prosecutors tell me, the district attorney in Miami told me many times his first rule was, did this person do it? And it was just as important to say he didn't, as he did.

GRACE: That's absolutely correct.

KING: Was that the way you lived with it?

GRACE: Yes. What joy would I get from putting the wrong person behind bars? That means the perp is probably going to do it again, is out there walking free. Why do I want that?

KING: What do you see now when you see these releases due to DNA? Over 130 people released who didn't do the crime. Central Park, those boys may not have done it. Doesn't that make you feel a little like maybe we came down -- not you, individually -- too hard, too soon?

GRACE: It makes me realize the system is made of humans that are not infallible. We go in, we give 200 percent as prosecutors, we get crapped on in the media, we get all kind of abuse. And we do our thing. We represent victims.

And mistakes were made, and I am thankful that those people have been cleared by DNA and have been released.

KING: Next to being killed, the worst thing of all in what happens to families, one would that imagine an innocent person behind bars is the worst. I don't know how they live.

GRACE: I don't know how they live.

KING: You would fight to get someone out? See what I'm trying to learn here, Nancy...

GRACE: Definitely.

KING: ... is that sometimes you seem so vituperative to an audience, that it appears as if that person doesn't matter, he has to pay a price because other people were hurt. If he was innocent, I'm sorry. But...

GRACE: I've never believed, ever condoned sending an innocent person behind bars as just a scapegoat.

KING: And you would work just as hard to get someone out? You would work just as hard?

GRACE: If I believed someone was innocent and wrongly imprisoned, yes, of course. But frankly, that is so rare.

KING: When you try a case, did try cases -- I'll ask you in a minute why you left -- do you have Keith in mind?

GRACE: Every time. Every time. Because normally, toward the last seven years of my 10 years at the district attorney's office, I tried specifically murder, rape, child molestation, spree murder -- which is more than one victim -- serial killings. Most of them dealt with murder.

And of course, I never tried a case without forcing myself to look at the defendant and realize, if I and a jury did not stop him, he would attack, he would kill, he would hurt or maim again. And I just don't want to live with that monkey on my back. So I would do what was necessary under the law and ethically to achieve conviction.

KING: It is very personal to you?

GRACE: Oh, Larry. You know how on TV you always see the witness break down and cry in the middle of questioning? Oh, no. I would be questioning the witness, and have to take a break because I would remember myself in the witness stand.

KING: Nancy Grace is our guest. You know her from "Trial Heat" of curse and she's become a regular here on LARRY KING LIVE, sometimes hosting this program as well. We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: Welcome back to Court TV's "Trial Heat." I'm Nancy Grace, thank you for being with this afternoon.

What a morning in trial history. We are juggling for you two live death penalty proceedings, one in California. We all were on the edge of our seats as a jury ultimately handed down a death penalty against David Alan Westerfield, the local engineer who was convicted in the death of little Danielle van Dam. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: What Corinthians said is, Without love, you are nothing. That is plain and simple. All the noise and the yelling and the clanging cymbals I've heard comes from right over there. And what I want to do is calmly go through the evidence with you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back with Nancy Grace. Did you then say, because of all of this, I wanted to be a lawyer?

GRACE: Well, I knew I couldn't be happy in a classroom anymore. Just looking out the window at the world rushing by, thinking that somehow, if I got one of those cases, that I could seek justice and some other person would not have their beloved murdered by someone that should have been handled 10 years before.

And that is what I did every day of my life as a prosecutor. I'm grateful for that opportunity...

KING: So you knew when you went to law school, you wanted to prosecute? You didn't want to be a defense attorney?

GRACE: No. No.

KING: That was your goal?

GRACE: No interest in money. No interest in slip and falls, contracts, celebrity clients, forget about it. I wanted to be a victim's rights advocate, and I wanted to change the world. Or at least put a Band-Aid on it.

KING: And so you thought you could do it best as a prosecutor in a courthouse in Atlanta?

GRACE: As a prosecutor of violent felonies. I didn't care where I ended up. I just wanted violent felonies and a huge case load. That's all I wanted.

KING: Every prosecutor can't say that though. They can't go into the D.A.'s office and say, I will only prosecute...

GRACE: You are so correct.

KING: You've got to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) traffic cases first.

GRACE: Let me tell you something, I had to convince the elected district attorney, who became like a grandfather to me, Mr. Slaten (ph) in Atlanta, to let me be a prosecutor, let me go into court. There were not a lot of women handling multiple murder trials, serial murder cases.

(CROSSTALK)

GRACE: A lot of them would get child court, juvenile court or child support recovery or appellate division.

KING: Did you have to do any of that?

GRACE: Sure, yes.

KING: You have to work your way in, right? How long before you got your first violent case?

GRACE: I had been at the district attorney's office, trying cases, for about three years.

KING: Doing all sorts of stuff?

GRACE: Everything. You name it. Drawing up indictments, doing child support recovery, juvie cases where kids would steal a pack of gum, you name it.

KING: But all the time, one goal.

GRACE: One.

KING: What was your first case in that order, in that line of violence?

GRACE: It was a murder. My first violent crime prosecution was a murder of a young girl named Mary. I remember her right now.

And you know what I remember? I remember her autopsy photo. She was asphyxiated, strangled with a plastic laundry bag. And she tried so hard to live. She breathed the bag in. And I opened the file, and there's a Polaroid of a dead lady with a laundry bag breathed up her nose and mouth.

That was my first murder case.

KING: Was it easy?

GRACE: No. It was very difficult. I put in hundreds of hours. But to look the jury in the eye and say, Convict him was very easy. Because I did very much my own investigation to make sure I was doing the right thing. I don't want to put the wrong guy in the clink.

KING: Now when some people get as tunnel visioned as it would appear you get based on the circumstances, there's this tendency to believe everybody arrested did it, isn't there? If he's brought in, he must have brought something wrong. Why would he be brought in?

I've had prosecutors tell me, the district attorney in Miami told me many times his first rule was, did this person do it? And it was just as important to say he didn't, as he did.

GRACE: That's absolutely correct.

KING: Was that the way you lived with it?

GRACE: Yes. What joy would I get from putting the wrong person behind bars? That means the perp is probably going to do it again, is out there walking free. Why do I want that?

KING: What do you see now when you see these releases due to DNA? Over 130 people released who didn't do the crime. Central Park, those boys may not have done it. Doesn't that make you feel a little like maybe we came down -- not you, individually -- too hard, too soon?

GRACE: It makes me realize the system is made of humans that are not infallible. We go in, we give 200 percent as prosecutors, we get crapped on in the media, we get all kind of abuse. And we do our thing. We represent victims.

And mistakes were made, and I am thankful that those people have been cleared by DNA and have been released.

KING: Next to being killed, the worst thing of all in what happens to families, one would that imagine an innocent person behind bars is the worst. I don't know how they live.

GRACE: I don't know how they live.

KING: You would fight to get someone out? See what I'm trying to learn here, Nancy...

GRACE: Definitely.

KING: ... is that sometimes you seem so vituperative to an audience, that it appears as if that person doesn't matter, he has to pay a price because other people were hurt. If he was innocent, I'm sorry. But...

GRACE: I've never believed, ever condoned sending an innocent person behind bars as just a scapegoat.

KING: And you would work just as hard to get someone out? You would work just as hard?

GRACE: If I believed someone was innocent and wrongly imprisoned, yes, of course. But frankly, that is so rare.

KING: When you try a case, did try cases -- I'll ask you in a minute why you left -- do you have Keith in mind?

GRACE: Every time. Every time. Because normally, toward the last seven years of my 10 years at the district attorney's office, I tried specifically murder, rape, child molestation, spree murder -- which is more than one victim -- serial killings. Most of them dealt with murder.

And of course, I never tried a case without forcing myself to look at the defendant and realize, if I and a jury did not stop him, he would attack, he would kill, he would hurt or maim again. And I just don't want to live with that monkey on my back. So I would do what was necessary under the law and ethically to achieve conviction.

KING: It is very personal to you?

GRACE: Oh, Larry. You know how on TV you always see the witness break down and cry in the middle of questioning? Oh, no. I would be questioning the witness, and have to take a break because I would remember myself in the witness stand.

KING: Nancy Grace is our guest. You know her from "Trial Heat" of curse and she's become a regular here on LARRY KING LIVE, sometimes hosting this program as well. We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: Welcome back to Court TV's "Trial Heat." I'm Nancy Grace, thank you for being with this afternoon.

What a morning in trial history. We are juggling for you two live death penalty proceedings, one in California. We all were on the edge of our seats as a jury ultimately handed down a death penalty against David Alan Westerfield, the local engineer who was convicted in the death of little Danielle van Dam.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: Members of the jury, that is what sets us apart from the animals swinging out in the jungle. Ya'll, they've paid her about $25,000 at that point. And they're trying to tell you they didn't render an opinion? I don't think so.

He killed her. Convict him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back with Nancy Grace.

Her nickname was "Amazing Grace" in the courtroom success. One superior court judge that she practiced before, once said -- quote -- "I often thought that defense lawyers would come in and see that little girl sitting there and think that they would take her to the cleaners. But when they walked out of court after losing the case, they looked like puppy dogs being chased by a bigger one."

Defense lawyers have also said you were too ruthless, too dramatic, too emotionally wrapped up. One attorney who lost a case to you said, "She overshadows the facts with blood and guts." Another said, "She plays as though she's the victim's champion. She also loses perspective."

How do you react to that kind of criticism? That you are sort of blinded by the victim?

GRACE: I would say that it's all true. Except what blinds me is the truth of these cases and the cold-hearted nature of what people can do to each other.

Sometimes I think the court system is too good for some perpetrators.

KING: But the system says the truth is not the truth until the jury says, right?

GRACE: I agree 300 percent.

KING: OK. They are the determiners of the truth, not you or the defense lawyer, right?

GRACE: And it sounds to me like those defense lawyers have been chewing on some sour grapes.

KING: You knew, then, that you had a reputation for toughness?

GRACE: It was a horrible reputation.

And in fact, at one point I had at one point hoped to become a judge someday and was blocked repeatedly by the defense bar.

KING: Think you could have been a fair judge?

GRACE: Yes.

KING: Did you date a lot? Did you have boyfriends? Did you recover enough to have a healthy social life?

GRACE: No, not for a very long time. But I have loved again. And Larry, I'm very happy. I never married, obviously or had a family, which is what I had really wanted in my life. But I'm very happy.

KING: Still want a family?

GRACE: Yes.

KING: Would you marry if Mr. Right came along?

GRACE: Yes. I think one day I will -- the thought of going through that again, I'm sure a site would have a field day with this. The thought of going through that, anticipating walking down the aisle like I had planned to do before, I know a lot of the women, that's their dream. For me, I wake up in the night sweating, because it really just seems too good to be true. And I don't even want to think about it. Because then everything will blow up. That's how I feel sometimes.

KING: Why did you leave it?

GRACE: Well, really, through no decision of my own.

Again, the district attorney I served under had been the longest- serving D.A. in this country, 37 years, elected, believe it or not. And finally, he's up his 70s. He called me and told me he wasn't going to run again. I begged him, please. Because what was I going to do with a law degree?

KING: Didn't you have civil service protection?

GRACE: Well, yes, but whenever a new D.A. comes in, they fire everybody.

KING: I thought you can't fire a civil servant.

GRACE: Oh, yes.

KING: You worked under a different contract? You weren't like the clerk in the filing office who couldn't be fired?

GRACE: Correct.

KING: So you quit?

GRACE: Well, I didn't know what I was going to do. So it was very...

KING: Why not wait to talk to the new D.A.?

GRACE: It was very -- well, everyone that was running had made it very clear. They wanted to clean house, start over, and that is not uncommon. You're in charge, you want your own people around you. There's nothing wrong with that.

So I didn't know what I was going to do. The thought of doing slip and falls and contracts. Ew, I didn't want that.

KING: And no desire to be a defense lawyer?

GRACE: I couldn't live with myself. Who wants to look at a jury and make up alibis and try to get someone off?

KING: Are you saying defense lawyers do that?

GRACE: I say that the defense attorneys very often choose to believe the clients. So I certainly didn't want to do that.

KING: How did you get with Court TV?

GRACE: Well, what happened was the founder of Court TV

KING: Steve Brill...

GRACE: ...had covered a few of my case -- yes, Steve Brill -- had covered a few of my cases, murders and serial rapes live on Court TV and Steve Brill flew to Atlanta, he threw out the suggestion I pair up with none other than Johnnie Cochran of all people. And I knew I didn't have anywhere to go.

KING: Mr. Cochran, then famous from the Simpson trial?

GRACE: Oh, yes. Yes.

KING: So this is, like, how many years ago?

GRACE: Oh, gosh.

KING: Seven, eight?

GRACE: Yes, seven years ago. And you know what? We shook hands over dinner. It was a deal. He flew to New York. I told the district attorney. I stayed there until his last day in office. I left on a Friday. I packed up two bags of clothes and a curling iron, moved to New York, and started Court TV on Monday.

KING: And liked it right away?

GRACE: Yes.

KING: Did you like the camera? Did you like the give and take?

GRACE: Well, to me, the camera is far less intimidating than looking at 12 pairs of eyeballs and remember....

KING: So you were not nervous?

GRACE: No.

KING: And you were not camera shy, anything?

GRACE: Not after striking juries full of rooms of 100 people in a murder trial, looking at one little camera. That's not scary.

KING: How did you get along with Johnnie?

GRACE: On air, we fought like a cat and a dog. A wet cat and dog. Off the air, we got along great.

KING: He's a nice guy.

GRACE: Yes, he is. At the beginning I had a really hard...

KING: Smart.

GRACE: Yes, I owe Johnnie Cochran a lot because he had all the fame, he had all the charm. I was just the nobody prosecutor from Atlanta, Georgia that they tagged on to the famous Johnnie Cochran. And I had a hard time at the beginning, because every time I looked at him, I imagined Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman lying with their heads chopped off in the front yard....

KING: But he didn't kill them.

GRACE: ...and I blamed him. Yes, of course, but I blamed him. I couldn't help it, as I told him.

But after I managed to realize, he did not, in fact, commit the double murder, you know, we got beyond that. And he and his wife, Velma (ph), became very good friends. Although we still disagree on everything.

KING: When we come back we'll find out what happened with Nancy after Johnnie left and some more of her thoughts on things legal.

Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNNIE COCHRAN, ATTORNEY: It's quite different. They aren't trying to attach any proceeds. There's no book written by Simpson.

GRACE: There was a video.

COCHRAN: Caution: circumstantial evidence.

GRACE: I disagree. Defense attorneys attack eyewitnesses. Was it dark? Did you have your glasses?

(CROSSTALK)

GRACE: It's like piecing together a puzzle.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Nancy Grace learning the Story, the whole story of Nancy Grace tonight. When Johnny Cochran left because she just had to work to much and do to much trial practice, you got the shot alone?

GRACE: I moved to trail coverage. Court TV had me go straight basicly into the court room. And it's a fantastic thing. I do what love all day.

KING: When are you on?

GRACE: I am on everyday 11:00 to 1:00 on "Trial Heat." We cover trials live, we interview the people the players and the cases.

KING: And your allowed your opinions, right?

GRACE: Yes, our CEO Henry, believes everybody has an opinion, and don't be afraid of it. Yes we all have opinions.

KING: Why do we like trials so much as views? Human drama? Real reality?

GRACE: I think that in my case -- I have a mission, because I like to speak for people who don't have a voice in our system. And if you could see the victims I have dealt with are very often poor, uneducated. They don't have anybody. And it seems to me the worst things happen to the people who have the least. And they have no voice in our justice system. You know, are constitution protects the defendants, as it should. But there is no one there for the victims. There voice is very often never heard. So that is why I enjoy what I do. I love what I do. People I think are fascinated by trials is because, you look at person and you suddenly see the evil side of human nature. The side that nobody talks about. You can't see, you can't look behind someone's eyes and see what their thinking. And you become the sole judge credibility.

KING: Do you think some people are born evil. We watch some of the trials of youngsters. Do you think there's a bad seed.

GRACE: No. I don't.

KING: Something happens.

GRACE: I really do believe that. As much as I feel sympathy that they have been mistreated in their lives or had a tough time, what about the innocent victim. To fault of their own has been mistreated by the defendant.

KING: Do you believe that some people are in fact insane.

GRACE: Yes, I do.

KING: Don't know right from wrong.

GRACE: Yes, I do. In fact, I handle that. Larry, you open up a case file, and you see someone has been in out of the public regional mental facility, over and over and over. This doctor, that doctor. The states own doctor says he is schizophrenic. He needs to go to the hospital. That is what they need.

KING: When you said going back, that you told the prosecutor, no death penalty. Were you an opponent of the death penalty then, just as college student and many college students are?

GRACE: Frankly, at that time in my life I hadn't even considered the death penalty. I grew up in a rural area and a wonderful family. Where you could see nothing but tall pine trees and soybean as far as the eye could see. The thought of evil or murder or hatred was really something I didn't know anything about.

KING: Are you know a proponent. You favor the death penalty now, right?

GRACE: Yes, I do. And I trust a jury that they return death penalties.

KING: Is the reason because it's a deterrent, or because it's revenge for what they did in that case?

GRACE: For two things. One, as a deterrent. Although many expert is would argue with me on that. Two, our justice system is based in three prongs. One, deterrence. One, rehabilitation. One, punishment. That's three. I see the death penalty as appropriate for deterrence and punishment.

KING: In specific kinds of cases, right?

GRACE: Yes, in specific kinds of cases. Specifically in my mind where the murder is of such a heinous nature or the victim is so defenseless.

KING: Back to "To Kill a Mockingbird." You think blacks got a fair shake in American courtrooms?

GRACE: No.

KING: More blacks were executed than whites?

GRACE: And to this day are more often imprisoned.

KING: What does society do about that ill?

GRACE: I think we need to focus on how we apprehend and how we treat other defendants. Nothing burns me up more than to see a rich, white, educated defendant walk out of the courthouse, on bail, when a minority defendant who did the same thing is under the jail. That's not right.

KING: Sure isn't.

GRACE: No, it's not. I never had that problem. Because I had no concern whatsoever with celebrity status wealth, education of a defendant. In my mind, that makes him even more culpable, because they have more of a choice in life. They probably had an education, and a nice home, a car to drive, school, and they abused that privilege. Unlike people who had nothing and weren't wrong.

KING: What do you think of people like John Walsh, Dominique Dunn, Mark Klass, our friend in San Francisco, who almost live a life of dealing with it every day, never forgetting?

GRACE: I look up to them. Because they took a horrible thing that could have broken a normal person, and they turned it into something wonderful. And they do good.

KING: So you don't think, even though it may have reasons of attention getting and the like, the end result is they do good?

GRACE: They do good.

KING: Because there are some who think once someone's dead, why even go to court? You can't bring them back.

GRACE: You know, that's not that odd of a thought. I recall in Keith's murder case, at the time it didn't matter to me. I thank god now that I had a justice system that it did matter to. Because I was so devastated. I couldn't even stand to smell a glass of orange juice. If it hadn't been for the court system, there would have been no justice.

KING: You're glad you went to court?

GRACE: Yes.

KING: Back with our remaining moments with the Nancy Grace you maybe didn't know about. Right after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: Husband Scott Peterson decides to go on a fishing trip, by himself, 85 miles away, at a Berkeley Marina. That's unusual.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is he a fisherman?

GRACE: He is a fisherman, a sportsman, loves the outdoors, hunting, fishing. So maybe that's not unusual. Except the timing. Christmas Eve, eight months pregnant. He says he leaves at 9:30 in the morning, she's going to walk the dog, one hour it's over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: Today as you have heard, Judge Mudd was basically forced by the law and the Constitution to grant a continuance in the sentencing, the death penalty sentencing we are anticipating in his trial. A jury convicted him in the death of 7-year-old Danielle van Dam.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back with Nancy Grace.

Some opponents of the death penalty say that we should take everybody in favor and have them witness an execution, in fact put it on television. That's the way to end it. Have you witnessed any?

GRACE: No, I have not seen an actual death penalty being implemented. But I can tell you what I have seen. I've been to the morgue and watched an autopsy of an innocent victim. I've seen plenty of crime scene photos. I've been on crime scenes where the innocent victim's body is still warm.

So they can say whatever they want to. Unless they have been in my shoes, or another victim's family's shoes, in my mind, they don't know what they're talking about.

KING: Would you go to an execution?

GRACE: Well it depends. I would not go for some prurient interest, to observe a human in their last moments. In suffering in what I consider a private moment between them and their maker.

But if a victim's family wanted me to go, I would be there for then and I would go with them. If I brought it about, brought about that death penalty, then I should be strong enough to go.

KING: When you prosecute, do you spend a lot of time with victims' families?

GRACE: I spent nearly all of my time with victims' families.

KING: You got close to them.

GRACE: I had some victims whose bodies were never identified. I never knew who their families were. But I prosecuted their case.

KING: I had a prosecutor in Miami tell me one of the frustrations of prosecution is you represent the state while the defense attorney represents a live, breathing individual.

GRACE: I never felt that way. I always felt that I represented the people. And those people include the victims sitting right behind me on the front row in this courtroom. I was very proud to do that. I look back on that as the highest success I have ever achieved.

KING: Might a psychologist say you've represented Keith?

GRACE: Oh I'm sure they would. As I said they'd have a field day.

KING: Maybe they're right.

GRACE: Maybe they're right, they can be right, I congratulate them, they're right.

KING: What do you see for Nancy Grace five years from now?

GRACE: You know what, Larry, it's so odd. So many people have these life plans. I don't have a plan. I just...

KING: Are you talking to a network about maybe doing a show?

GRACE: Yes, Court TV and NBC are creating a legal talk show about real cases and real people...

KING: For both networks?

GRACE: It will be a syndicated show presented by NBC. At this moment it's called "Trial By Fire."

KING: Your role is?

GRACE: As the host of the show. And we will be talking to the most incredible people I've ever met. Victims, witnesses, some perpetrators in violent crimes. And their stories, their triumphs, how they made it through, and unfortunately how some of them didn't make it through.

KING: You're going to continue doing "Trial Heat?"

GRACE: Oh, yes. I would die if I left "Trial Heat."

KING: So you're going to continue doing "Trial Heat," "Trial By Fire," a daytime show, too? Will you continue to appear on you know what?

GRACE: If you ask me.

KING: They'll allow you to?

(CROSSTALK)

GRACE: You think they're going to say no to Larry King? I don't think so.

But, Larry, I will say this. People always say, court cases bring about closure. That's not true. Because losing someone like Keith, or like the victims we see and talk about on your show all the time, it's like getting a broken arm that you never got fixed. But you learn to boil a cup of coffee or write even so. You just go through life with that pain in your arm.

That's what happens. You just learn to adapt. And you keep waking up every morning and you go through life that way.

KING: Have you seen any common thread among murderers?

GRACE: Yes.

KING: Which is?

GRACE: Yes. They have no tender feeling for another human.

KING: Sociopath? Conscience is absent?

GRACE: And they can function beautifully in the course of their day. But you look at them, they could be handsome, charming, witty.

KING: The guy in San Diego, look at all the testimony that occurred about him.

GRACE: How fantastic he was.

KING: Inventor, friend, helped people.

GRACE: But then the cruel side of him takes over the rest.

KING: But when you look at them, they look like -- they don't look like -- what does a criminal look like?

GRACE: You say look at this good looking guy, committed murder. Nobody wants to believe that. That's the fascination with the court system. You go into the mind and the heart of a human.

KING: Still read Shakespeare?

GRACE: All the time. All the time.

KING: Ever have days where you miss that? Say, maybe I'd like to teach?

GRACE: Larry, once I lost Keith, I never looked back.

KING: You keep doing what you're doing. It's a great pleasure having you with us. Thanks for doing this tonight. I know generally you've not talked about this.

Our guest has been Nancy Grace, you see her regularly on LARRY KING LIVE. She sometimes hosts this program. She's the host of "Trial Heat" on Court TV. We thank Nancy Grace for being our special guest tonight. "NEWSNIGHT with Aaron Brown is next. I'm Larry King in New York. Good night.

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