Thursday, June 01, 2006

Is CNN's Nancy Grace Despicable?

Network and Cable News outlets were breathlessly reporting yesterday evening the news that a Birmingham, AL attorney was abducted and thankfully found alive several hours later. Nancy Grace on her CNN show had live "reports" from Alabama journalists. She solicited opinions from attorneys and even one psychotherapist during the show. In nearly every report, the victim was classified as a "divorce attorney."

Also on the show was Paul Finebaum, who has a well regarded sports show on the radio in Alabama. A curious choice as a "local" voice on this news item.

My commentary primarily relates to Grace's seat of the pants opinions ostensibly asserted as as facts. Grace repeatedly made mention that the alleged abductor was "probably" a disgruntled current or former client of the abducted attorney, or that perhaps it was a husband on the "losing" end of a divorce/custody battle.

For most of the show, it was a near certain conclusion that this alleged kidnapper was linked somehow to Ms. Gregory, the victim. Only once did anyone mention that perhaps it was too early to tell, and that it may have been a crime of opportunity (this comment was from the psychotherapist). This early conclusion by a guest on the show was nearly shouted down by Grace. What is significant that as of the airing of the show, the suspect's name was not even known.

Why are media outlets now running breathless comments by newslebrities who suggest or comment that a report is a fact? At any point is Ms. Grace going to admit she was wrong when it is later determined that this was simply a crime involving chance between suspect and victim? I don't think that will happen.

As an attorney with a national show, to me it is irresponsible for Grace to suggest loudly and repeatedly that this was a client-attorney related crime, or one where the two had some type of connection. Grace also made unfair and snide comments about family law in general (and I don't practice in that area). When it was mentioned that the attorney had been planning to attend a family law seminar titled "Divorce on the Beach" in Destin, Ms. Grace said with a sneer, "don't even get me started" on that ... .

Let's see what develops in a story where not even the name of the suspect is public at this time. Will it simply be a case where the suspect was watching an ATM for an opportunity? Given that there were three stops at ATMs, that the attorney's SUV was left abandoned in a housing project in that city, and that the attorney was held in a local Birmingham-area hotel, my early guess is that there may not be a link.

To discount all possiblities surrounding the kidnapping during a one hour national program is irresponsible, in my opinion. Unfortunately, this is the price being paid now in the always on era. She's wrong, and the facts will show it.