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Interview with Nancy Grace

Aired February 20, 2005 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: 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, a little different because she launches her own show on CNN Headline News tomorrow night at 8:00 Eastern. And because tonight, we're going to learn who Nancy Grace really is.
You've seen her and you know how vituperative she could be. In the history of this program she's probably caused the most pro and con at the same time. People hate her or love her. And they have reasons for both feelings. She can be angry, forceful, she's quite a television personality.

We thought we'd spend tonight learning about who Nancy Grace is and how she got to be the way she is. We started by asking Nancy where she grew up.


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

KING: You always wanted to be a lawyer?

GRACE: No, as a matter of fact I wanted to be an English teacher. I majored in Shakespearean 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; 43 years for Southern Railroad.

KING: And you got to -- did you get to ride trains a lot?

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

KING: Were you a high school cheerleader, somebody told me? Were you?

GRACE: That was a fluke, Larry. The only reason...

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

GRACE: I became a cheerleader was 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 -- yeah, I'm only 5'1". I' really not that great on the basketball court.

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


KING: And that was a defense attorney?

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

KING: Oooh, save that.


KING: That's no small thing.

GRACE: But what was...

KING: Where'd you go to college?

GRACE: I went to Mercer University and studied Shakespearean literature. I went to Mercer Law School. And then later on...

KING: Why law school, if you wanted literature?

GRACE: Well, 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're a senior in...

GRACE: Yes, in college, an undergrad.

KING: Undergrad.

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

KING: Back a little?


KING: How long had you been going with him?

GRACE: We had been together over two years.

KING: Met him in college?

GRACE: Yes. He was going through school on a baseball scholarship. KING: Oh, he was a player?


KING: Good for him.

GRACE: In fact, he was looking to be drafted by the semi-pros. He was very good, third base.

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

GRACE: He thought about it, but he wanted to go into geology and already had a job offer with an oil firm, an oil company.

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

GRACE: A schoolteacher, with a family. And who know what, by now?

KING: How was he killed?

GRACE: Keith had a summer job with a friend of his father's. 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 anything 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, en route back.

KING: For profit, you mean?

GRACE: Yes. I think he had $35 and a picture of me in his wallet. And that is 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?


KING: 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.


KING: The sister told you, what? GRACE: Well, you know when I describe it, I very rarely discuss it, because it is 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.

KING: I get that.

GRACE: I remember, 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 payphone, on campus, because I couldn't make it all the way to the library.

KING: What had she told you?

GRACE: Nothing, I called. And she picked up the phone and 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 up, my hands were just 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: All in my life that mattered was that he was dead.

KING: How did you finally find out the story, what resolved?

GRACE: Well, at that moment, 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 -- that he was dead. That what -- it hadn't been an accident; I couldn't get to him. There was nothing I could do. I saw the 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 got out of my next semester and (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: Did you know his parents well?

GRACE: Oh, very well.

KING: Did they know your parents, et cetera?

GRACE: Oh, 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 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.



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



KING: Our guest is Nancy Grace. Did this then prompt you to go to law school, because -- I mean, where did this

GRACE: Well, at that point...

KING: 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...

KING: Dropped out of school, as a senior?

GRACE: Yes. I didn't I couldn't think. I couldn't eat. I lost -- oh, gosh, I think I lost over 30 pounds. I went to Philadelphia and lived with my sister for a while and then I... KING: And 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 a 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, uh, put a Band-Aid on ...

KING: So, you went back to Georgia?


KING: Did you then get involved in the case of the person who did the...

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

KING: Did you finish school?

GRACE: Yes, I finished school.

KING: Obviously, you finished school, went to law school.

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

KING: Was the killer apprehended quickly?

GRACE: Yes, yes. He was caught quickly. And what is one of the many disturbing things. There are 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 him behind bars and toss the key. But to rehab the person, or to throw him behind bars, to get him off the street.

KING: How old was he?

GRACE: He was - the perp was 24.

KING: And did you like, go to the trial?

GRACE: Oh, yes.

KING: You did?

GRACE: 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 and knowing I didn't want to go. And I remember when I went in that courtroom. It was a big ol' courtroom. The witness stand, way up. And I walked in, 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: Oh, you testified. How were you relevant to testify?

GRACE: Well, now as a veteran 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.

KING: Oh. So the prosecutor used you?

GRACE: Correctly.

KING: To create sympathy for the ...

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

KING: Why did he need sympathy for a person who has been killed?

GRACE: Well, when you have a jury, you have 12 human beings that will look at the defendant and feel sorry and empathy for being charged, being put on trial. Like everyone does.

KING: And there is no victim.

GRACE: Nothing but me.

KING: Did the defendant take the stand?

GRACE: The defendant did not take the stand.

KING: Did he have a -- what kind of defense did they...

GRACE: He had an excellent defense.

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

GRACE: Didn't do it. Didn't do it. Wrong guy.

KING: How long was the jury out.

GRACE: I think the jury was out about 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: In other words the facts of the case were no of no doubt to you.


KING: There wasn't a time where you said, maybe they got the wrong guy?

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

KING: What happened when the jury came back?

GRACE: He was found guilty. There was no emotion.

KING: What was that like for you?

GRACE: Empty.

KING: No great feeling of getting even?

GRACE: Every verdict that I bring in at CourtTV and every verdict that I brought home as a prosecutor, of violent felony crimes, 10 year, Larry. Over 100 jury trials, I would work the case, work, work, work, till 12, 1 o'clock in the morning. I'd get the verdict, it always felt the same way. Because in the end you know justice had 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 have done what you could.

KING: How about when you lost a case? Was that worse? Did you...

GRACE: Is this a trick question?

KING: No. Nobody wins every case. You win every case? You never lost a case?

GRACE: Knock on wood.

KING: You got a plea bargain in some cases?

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

KING: But you never had, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, how do you find, no 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: Oh, yes, you know why?

KING: Because you don't like giving up.

GRACE: Even, I get the file, I'd open the case. It would be a drug case, two hits of cocaine. I'd go, hmm, 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: Now, back to the verdict, guilty. Is there then the second phase? Was there a phase of...

GRACE: There was a series of appeals.

KING: Was there -- did they have then? Did he get the death penalty or not? Or did that not enter into this?

GRACE: That did enter into it.

KING: There was a penalty phase?


KING: What happened?

GRACE: Well, I 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. And in youth, I said no.

KING: You sorry?


KING: Did he get life?

GRACE: Yes, he did.

KING: He's still living?

GRACE: Yes, he is.

KING: Serving his sentence?

GRACE: Serving his sentence.

KING: Eligible for parole?

GRACE: Correct.

KING: In 25 years, like? And you wanted him to die, in retrospect?

GRACE: In retrospect, it is not that I want him to die. I'm not some blood-thirsty vampiress skulking the courthouse. 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.




GRACE: What's really being said is that without love you are nothing. Put it plain and simple, all the noise and yelling and the clanging symbols I've heard comes from right over there. And what I want to do is calmly go through the evidence with you.



KING: We're back with Nancy Grace.

Did you then say, because of all of this, I want to be a lawyer?

GRACE: Well, 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 couldn't 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 that 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 flipping files, contracts, celebrity clients. Forget about it. I wanted to be a victims 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.

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

GRACE: You are so correct.

KING: You have to fight (ph) traffic cases first, right? GRACE: Let me tell you something. I had to convince the elected district attorney, who had become like a grandfather to me. Mr. Slatten (ph), in Atlanta, to let me be a prosecutor. Let me go into court. You know, there were not a lot of women handling multiple murder trials, serial murder cases, spree killings.

KING: Women got traffic cases.

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. Oh, yes.

KING: You had 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, juvee (ph) cases, where a kid would steal a pack of gum. You name it.

KING: But all the time, one goal.


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

GRACE: It was a murder. My first violent crime, prosecution; it 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 is 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 of 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 is a tendency to believe everybody arrested did it, isn't there? If he's brought in, he must have done something wrong. Why would he brought in?

Because I've had prosecutors tell me, the district attorney in Miami told me many times that his first rule was, did this person do it?


KING: And it was just as important to say he didn't, as he did.

GRACE: That is absolutely correct.

KING: And is that the way you live with it?

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

KING: So what do you see now, when you see all 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, and what happens to families, one would imagine that innocent person behind bars is the worst -- I don't know how they live.

GRACE: I don't know how they live.

KING: And you would fight to get someone out?

GRACE: Definitely.

KING: See, what I'm trying to learn here, Nancy, is that sometimes we 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. So, if he was innocent, I'm sorry, but (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

GRACE: Oh, I have never believed, ever condoned sending an innocent person behind bars -- just as a scapegoat?

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

GRACE: If I believe 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. Did 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 the 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 a conviction.

KING: It is very personal to you?

GRACE: Oh, Larry. Oh, 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 course, and she's become a regular here on LARRY KING LIVE, sometimes hosting this program as well. We'll be right back.



GRACE: Welcome back to CourtTV's "Trial Heat". I'm Nancy Grace. Thank you for being with us 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 Allen Westerfield, the local engineer who was convicted in the death little Danielle Van Dam (ph).




GRACE: Members of the jury, that is what sets us apart from animals swinging out in the jungle. You all (ph) made payment of about $25,000. At that point they're trying to tell you they didn't render an opinion? I don't think so.

He killed her. Convict him.



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 little puppy dogs being chased by a bigger one." Defense lawyers have also said you were too ruthless, too dramatic, too emotional wrapped up. One attorney who lost a case to you said, "She overshadows the facts with blood and guts." Another said, "She plays as if she is the victim's champion. She loses all perspective."

How do you react to that kind of criticism?

GRACE: I would say it's...

KING: 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...

KING: Sometimes.

GRACE: ... 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: 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 it?

GRACE: It was a horrible reputation, and in fact, at one point I had hoped to become a judge some day and was blocked repeatedly by the defense bar.

KING: Do you think you could have been a fair judge?


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 have really wanted in my life. Yet I'm very happy. I have...

KING: Still want a family?

GRACE: Yes. I mean...

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

KING: Why'd 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. For 37 years, he was elected, believe it or not. And finally, he decided (ph), he called me to his office 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 -- 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.


KING: You worked under a different kind of contract.


KING: You weren't like, the clerk in the filing office...

GRACE: Yes, you can be fired. Correct.

KING: ... who couldn't be fired.

GRACE: Correct. And...

KING: Did 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 -- I mean, well, everyone that was running 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: No desire to be a defense lawyer?

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

KING: Are you saying defense lawyers do that?

GRACE: I -- I say that defense attorneys very often choose to believe a client. And...

KING: So what...

GRACE: ... I clearly didn't want to do that.

KING: How'd 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 cases. 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: 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?


KING: Did you like the cameras? 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're not nervous and you were not camera shy?


KING: Or any of those kind of things?

GRACE: No. Well, after striking (ph) juries full of rooms of 100 people in a murder trial, looking at one little camera...

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 -- yes. I knew Johnnie Cochran well (ph), because he had all the fame, he had all the charm. I was just the nobody prosecutor from Atlanta, Georgia, that they tagged onto the famous Johnnie Cochran.

And I had a hard time at the beginning, because every time I looked at him, I managed Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman, lying with their heads chopped off in the front yard.

KING: But he was...

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, Dale Mason (ph), became very -- they were good friends. Although we still disagree on everything.

KING: When we come back -- when we come back, we'll find out what happened with Nancy after Johnnie left and some more of her thoughts on some things legal. Don't go away.



GRACE: Johnnie...


GRACE: It's over. It's over.

COCHRAN: It's over?

GRACE: All David Jones can do is hope to save his client's life.

COCHRAN: Wait a minute. Wait a minute.

GRACE: How is this any different?

COCHRAN: No, it's quite different. They aren't trying to attach any proceeds. There's no book written by Simpson now.

GRACE: There's a video.

COCHRAN: Caution. Certain types of evidence.

GRACE: I did say breathe (ph). Defense attorneys attack eyewitnesses: "Was it dark? Did you have your glasses?"

COCHRAN: Yes. Let me tell you something. You still want everybody saying, "I saw him go and do that."

GRACE: It's like piecing together a puzzle.




KING: We're back with Nancy Grace, learning the story of -- the whole story of Nancy Grace tonight.

When Johnnie Cochran left, because he just had to work too much and didn't do too much trial practice, you got the shot alone?

GRACE: I moved to trial coverage. Court TV had me go straight, basically, into the courtroom and it's -- it's a fantastic thing. I do what I love all day.

KING: When are you on?

GRACE: I'm on every day, 11 to 1 on "Trial Heat." We cover trials live. We interview the people, the players in the cases. We analyze the law...

KING: And you're allowed your opinions, right?

GRACE: Yes. Our CEO, Henry Schleiff, believes everybody has an opinion, and don't be afraid of it. Yes.

KING: Why do we -- why do we like trials so much as viewers?

GRACE: I think...

KING: Human drama?

GRACE: I think that...

KING: Real reality.

GRACE: In my case, I have a mission, because I like to speak for people who don't have a voice in our system. And Larry, if you could see the victims that I've dealt with, they're very often poor, uneducated. They don't have anybody.

And it seems to me that the worst thing happens to the people that have the least. And they have no voice in our justice system. You know that our Constitution protects the defendant, as it should. But there's no one there for the victim. Their 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 because you look at a 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 down in somebody's eyes and see what they're thinking. And then you become the sole judge of credibility.

KING: You think some people are born evil? You've watched some of the trials of youngsters. Do you think there's a bad seed?

GRACE: No, I don't.

KING: Something happened?

GRACE: I really do believe that. And as much as I may feel sympathy that they have been mistreated in their life or had a tough time, what about the innocent victim, that through no fault of their own has been mistreated by the defendant?

KING: You believe 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 somebody who's been in and out of the public regional mental facility, over and over and over. This doctor, that doctor. That state's own doctor says he's schizophrenic. He needs to go to the hospital. That is what they need.

KING: Have you -- when you said going back that you told a prosecutor no death penalty, were you an opponent of the death penalty then, just as a college student and college students are?

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

KING: Are you now 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 experts 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 Kill a Mockingbird." You think blacks get a fair shake in American courtrooms?


KING: More blacks are executed than whites. Even per capita.

GRACE: And to this day, are more often imprisoned.

KING: So 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 the defendant. In my mind, that makes them even more culpable, because they had more of a choice in life. They probably had an education and a nice home, a car to drive, schools out the wazoo, and they abused that privilege. Unlike people who had nothing and it went wrong.

KING: What do you think of people like John Walsh, Dominick Dunne, Mr. Marc Klaas, 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: Well, 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. And I thank God now that I had a justice system that it did matter to, because I was so devastated. I -- 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.



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

MEREDITH VIEIRA, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": Is he a fisherman? Is he somebody who goes out a lot?

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





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.


KING: We're back with Nancy Grace.

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

GRACE: No, I have not seen the actual death penalty being implemented.

KING: Do you...

GRACE: 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, that depends. I would not go for some prurient interest to observe another human in their last moments in suffering in what I consider to be a very private moment between them and their maker. But if a victim's family wanted me to go, I would be there for them, 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 -- when you prosecute, do you spend a lot of time with the victims' families?

GRACE: I spent nearly all of my time...

KING: That close to them?

GRACE: ... with victims' families. I have some victims whose bodies were never identified. I never knew who their families were. But I prosecuted the case.

KING: I had a prosecutor in Miami tell me once 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've ever achieved.

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

GRACE: I'm sure they would. As I said, they'd have a field day. There's no...

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 don't.

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...

KING: For both networks?

GRACE: It will be a syndicated show...

KING: NBC will syndicate it?

GRACE: ... presented by NBC. At this moment, it's called "Trial by Fire."

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

GRACE: Oh, yes. I would -- 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?


KING: Will you continue to appear on -- you know what? You have to. Will they allow you to?

GRACE: Yes. Yes. If you ask me.

KING: NBC so quick there.

GRACE: You think that I can say no to Larry King? I don't -- I don't think so.

But Larry, I will say this. You know, people always say court cases bring about closure. That's not true, because losing someone like Keith, or like the victims we see or talk about on your show all the time, is 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?


KING: Which is?

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

KING: Sociopath? Conscience is absent?

GRACE: They can function beautifully in the course of their day. But you look at them. They can be handsome, charming, and really...

KING: That's the guy -- let's take the guy in San Diego. Look at all the testimony that occurred about him.

GRACE: How fantastic he was.

KING: An inventor. GRACE: But then...

KING: Then -- helped people.

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

KING: Yes, but when you look at them, they look like they -- they don't look like...

GRACE: It's so difficult to tell that to a jury.

KING: What does a criminal look like?

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

KING: Still read Shakespeare?

GRACE: 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. And thanks for doing this tonight. I know you generally have 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. I thank Nancy Grace for being our special guest tonight.

"NEWSNIGHT WITH AARON BROWN" is next. I'm Larry King in New York. Good night.



KING: Thanks for joining us on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't forget, Nancy Grace's debut show tomorrow night. Tracy Gold will be with us tomorrow night, convicted of a DUI accident, paying penance for it and lecturing others about it.

And don't forget, Tuesday night, Dana Reeve, the widow of Chris Reeve.

Thanks for joining us. Stay tuned for more news around the clock on your most trusted name in news, CNN. Good night.


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