Nancy Grace shifted her dreams from Shakespearean literature to law following the death of her fiancé Keith Griffin’s murder in 1979. Since then, she’s served in a district attorney’s office, covered cases on television and investigated unsolved crimes.
On Sept. 22, she released “Don’t Be a Victim,” a book giving guidelines on how to increase safety during various activities like jogging or traveling, and her broadcast show called “Bloodline Detectives” first aired Oct. 3.
Her Oxygen series “Injustice With Nancy Grace” also premieres its second season today. Ahead of its release, she spoke with Variety about the show’s focus on spotlighting injustices like Vanessa Guillén’s, as well as various other injustices that have been topics of conversation this year.
In “Injustice With Nancy Grace,” you cover stories like that of Vanessa Guillén, the soldier who was killed at Fort Hood this year by another soldier. Could you talk about insight you’ve had into her death?
That is an ongoing injustice. [Scott] Efflandt, the guy supposedly in charge at Hood, he’s still on the table! All they did was move him down the hall and bring in a substitute. He’s still got full benefits from work. This happened under his watch! I believe there is a coverup at Fort Hood. Vanessa Guillén was bludgeoned dead with a hammer in the armory – close quarters – but the army told her sister, “We have no evidence anything went wrong in the armory.”
The sister drove five hours at night in the rain to get to Fort Hood to try to find Vanessa. She was turned away. And the information they did give her the next day was incorrect, including an incorrect ping on Vanessa’s phone. They did everything possible that was misleading. In fact, she was killed right there in the armory. How did she get out of Fort Hood with nobody noticing a thing? I find that very hard to believe.
Are most of the injustices, inconsistencies and biases part of an overall system or are they unique instances?
I think the system, and I count myself part of it, is made up of nothing but humans. And humans commit errors, and some people are bad at the core. I think, generally speaking, in my practice, I believe most lawyers, most judges, most law enforcement are good. But there are those that are not good, that are evil, intentionally or not. And they make the system go wrong, whether it’s indifference, being slack, or intentionally misleading. Those are injustices that have an impact that lasts for a lifetime and beyond.
Do you hope to see any fixes come from “Injustice,” whether they be systemic or for the families whose stories you’re covering?
Both. For instance … I spoke today to one of the members of SHARP, Sexual Harassment Assault Response Prevention, basically set up by the military to give an independent route for sex harassment victims to use in the military. For one thing, I believe there should be criminal prosecution when superiors allow sex harassment and sex abuse to continue. I don’t think playing musical chairs with the offenders is the answer, and that’s the answer we’re being spoon fed right now. I also believe that there has been a massive cover-up, and that it has been ongoing at Fort Hood. I think Hood is the tip of the iceberg.
But most concerning to me is the fact that if there had been sex harassment and if Vanessa felt free to report it, she might be alive today. And I don’t believe for one minute that they did a thorough and exhaustive criminal investigation.
The decision not to charge the police officers who shot and killed Breonna Taylor continues to spark outrage. Do you think there is a bias against people of color in our justice system?
When I prosecuted in inner-city Atlanta, the large majority of the victims I represented were Black. Also, the large majority of cops that testified on the state’s behalf were Black. I think that we are not being shown all the evidence. For instance, I’m very curious about so-called friendly fire. I don’t know that it was Breonna’s boyfriend that shot the cops. I’m curious about the ballistics results. I want to comb through all the grand jury testimony.
I can tell you this though, the discussion on ending “no-knock” warrants are nonsensical. Here’s an example: what if a five-year-old girl was being held hostage inside by a sex predator. You think the cops are really going to go to the door and go, “Knock, knock, knock. Let’s have a tea party?” Suggesting we’re going to have a no-knock policy, that’s not the answer. The answer is going to be much more difficult than addressing no-knock. Plus I’d like to point out that even with no-knock warrants, you always yell, “police!,” before you go in because you don’t want to get shot. And neighbors heard them yell “police.” We’re also hearing that at the very beginning, the boyfriend said Breonna fired at the cops. I don’t believe that, so I’m curious why he said that and why he changed his story. But what happened to Breonna Taylor is wrong.
While we’re talking about Breonna, the victim in that scenario, I also want to touch on George Floyd. Mr. Floyd was murdered, and now we see the cops pointing the finger at each other. I think they should all be tried together for murder, not one with lesser charges … after cooperating. They were all in it together. They were all responsible for what happened to Mr. Floyd, and they should all be tried for murder. End of story.
How do communities heal following criminal circumstances that you tend to investigate?
As we’re seeing in the Breonna Taylor case and the George Floyd case … these cases have caused so much pain and division in communities largely because they’re unresolved. We don’t know the truth. The truth has been somewhat kept from us – what’s really going on, what’s happening all the time. Only until we get all the facts and we get the truth about what’s happened, will there ever be healing. Without justice, there is no healing. There’s no moving forward. I condemn violence, but I understand the frustration of people that are hurt over Breonna Taylor’s death and Mr. Floyd’s death. Until there is justice, there is not going to be peace or healing.
Why do you think crime stories interest viewers in the way that they do?
I think that criminals, especially murderers, for the most part they think differently than the rest of us. It’s more important to see the person dead than to go on with current circumstances. I was just covering the case of Joel Guy Jr. He murdered his mother and father, dismembered them, and put their bodies in acid because his parents were about to cut him off financially. All that because he’s going to lose his allowance. Been in college 10 years and never held down a job, and he’d rather them be dead than to be cut off financially. When you think the answer is murder, you’re different. You’re not insane – he knew perfectly well what he was doing – but I think that as a whole, we’re intrigued. We don’t’ understand it. It’s a conundrum, it’s a mystery and we want it solved.
“Tiger King” was a popular true crime docuseries that came out at the beginning of quarantine. What were your thoughts on it?
What’s happened in the documentary that was intended to be entertainment, that was a real case and the Tiger King’s sitting behind bars right now.
Also, at the beginning I [dismissed] suggestions that Carole Baskin had murdered her husband, Don Lewis. Now I am taking it more seriously mostly because of a money motive and because multiple handwriting experts — one in particular with Clarion-Ledger — had analyzed the power of attorney giving all control and money to Carole Baskin in the event Lewis was dead or “went missing.” I’ve never seen a legal instrument like that in my life.
And [there’s] the emergence of a potentially new witness, her name was Trish Farr-Payne. She says her husband Kenny Farr, Don Lewis’ right-hand man at the time, and she says that before Lewis was reported missing, that her then-husband, now divorced, showed up at home in Lewis’ vehicle with all Lewis’ guns, and said Don Lewis is gone. If this is true, Lewis was only reported missing several days after that.
I’ve spoken to Sheriff Chronister for hours and hours, and there is a real investigation going on. Baskin has not been named a suspect, but I believe she is being investigated. Of course, she denies it.