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Nancy Grace to Leave HLN

Nancy Grace, the prosecutor-turned-pundit who has weighed in on the legal maneuverings behind some of the nation’s most fascinating tabloid courtroom dramas, will leave her primetime perch at HLN, where she has worked for more than a decade.

A spokeswoman for the Time Warner-owned network said Grace would step down in October. Her decision was reported previously by The Hollywood Reporter.

Grace announced her exit, which is said to be of her own choosing, as HLN is charting a new programming direction. For the past several months, executives at CNN Worldwide, which operates the network, have articulated a new path that would make HLN a sort of “CNN2” – more daytime programs focused on the news, and a greater overall emphasis on burnishing the original non-fiction programming that has become a greater part of CNN’s primetime schedule. HLN recently began simulcasting first-run episodes of “The Hunt,” the John Walsh-hosted crimestopper series that airs on CNN.

HLN has not unveiled plans for a program that might replace Grace at 8 p.m, but the HLN spokeswoman indicated her staff would stay at the network. “The plan is to have a new show in the 8 p.m. hour, and the goal is to base it on the expertise of her current team,” said Alison Rudnick, the spokeswoman. Grace’s show is the anchor of HLN’s primetime lineup, which at present also relies heavily on “Forensic Files.” Dr. Drew Pinsky holds forth at 7 p.m. for the network.

When Grace signs off, she will take with her a signature voice that generated controversy as well as ratings. Grace was criticized for the way she pushed for swift justice before many of the facts of celebrated cases were registered at trial. She insisted, for instance, that Richard Ricci, a suspect in the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart, was guilty. Police would later find that two other individuals were guilty of the crime. She also moved quickly to pronounce the guilt of three Duke University lacrosse players who were accused in 2006 of raping a woman at a party. The three men were later found innocent of the charge.

Her passion, however, won viewers over, pressing for resolution and spotlighting victims’ rights. Her stance was inspired by the murder of her fiance, Keith Griffin, when she was just 19 years old. The crime spurred her to go to law school, get a degree, and work to put criminals away.

Night after night, Grace would get on HLN and, in a signature Southern drawl,  make the case as to why a suspect ought to be found guilty before the courts had done so.  “When people say defense lawyers are just doing their jobs and are necessary for our system, you could say that about a lot of people who claim they’re just doing their jobs,” she told USA Today in 2006. “You could say that about the guards at Auschwitz.”

Grace knew the ins and outs of the legal system. She served for more than a decade in the Atlanta Fulton County District Attorney’s office as a prosecutor specializing in felony cases. Her outspoken style drew notice and she was asked to co-host a program with attorney Johnnie Cochran on Court TV. She soon had her own show. Grace also hosted the syndicated program “Swift Justice with Nancy Grace” for a time, leaving after the production moved to Los Angeles from her home in Atlanta.

Grace would marry an Atlanta investment banker, David Linch, in 2007. She also gave birth to twins in that same year.

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