TV Host Nancy Grace Will Be Taped in Court Deposition, Judge Rules

TV Host Nancy Grace Will Be Taped in Court Desposition, Judge RulesABC News/AP Photo
The family and estate of Melinda Duckett, shown left, the young mother of a missing child who fatally shot herself after being battered by harsh questions from talk-show host Nancy Grace, right, have dismissed a lawsuit against Grace and CNN.

CNN's Nancy Grace will be questioned in front of video cameras, a judge has ruled, dismissing a request that her deposition in a wrongful death lawsuit not be recorded.

The high-profile cable TV personality hosts HLN's highest-rated show. Her legal team has already taped the depositions of the plaintiff's witnesses in the suit brought by the estate of a former guest on the "Nancy Grace" show.

"The judge made the right call," criminal defense attorney Dana Cole told "Good Morning America" today.

Grace is defending herself against the estate of Melinda Duckett, the mother of missing 2-year-old Leesburg, Fla., boy Trenton Duckett, which is suing the legal the commentator and her show for "intentional infliction of emotional distress" that led Duckett, her family says, to commit suicide in 2006.

"The key issue really is what was she told before going on the show," Cole said of the merits of the lawsuit. "Nancy has never met a victim she didn't love and never met a suspect she didn't want to tar and feather."

Grace, he noted, is famously tough on suspects and defendants, so much so that she is sometimes known in criminal defense circles as "Nancy Disgrace," Cole said.

"So the question is how was this interview pitched" to Duckett, he said. "Was there some sort of deception involved in getting her on the show?"

For his part, Cole said he does not think Grace went too far, noting that she seemed sympathetic to Duckett in the beginning and began to pressure her only when Duckett was less than forthcoming.

"That's when Nancy went in for the kill, so to speak," he said. "Her defense is that, 'Hey, I'm a reporter. I have a right to ask any question I want.'"

Family Claims Nancy Grace Led to Daughter's Suicide

Grace's attorneys, who also represent CNN in the lawsuit, had filed the emergency motion in U.S. District Court in Ocala Monday to bar cameras during Grace's scheduled deposition Thursday, arguing they would avoid "annoyance, embarrassment, oppression and undue harm should the videotape be released prior to trial for purposes unrelated to the litigation."

HLN was formally known as CNN Headline News.

"It is indeed ironic," said Kara Skarupo, one of the attorneys representing Duckett's estate, her parents and sister. "They allege we've been courting the media, which is completely ridiculous. The irony is she is out there on TV every day."

Skarupo said Grace's lawyers would like video cameras to be stricken entirely. But if the judge allows her deposition to be recorded, they "want us to sign a blood pact that it won't get out."

A spokeswoman for CNN declined to comment on the matter.

Grace was a prosecutor for nearly a decade in the Atlanta-Fulton County District Attorney's office on felony cases involving serial murder, serial rape, serial child molestation and arson.

Duckett's parents, Bethann and William Eubank, along with her aunt Kathleen Calvert, filed a lawsuit against Grace two months after Melinda's Sept. 7, 2006, appearance on the "Nancy Grace" show.

During Grace's interview, which was taped with Duckett on the phone, the talk show host pounded her desk and demanded, "Where were you? Why aren't you telling us where you were that day?"

The following day, Duckett shot herself in the head just hours before her interview with Grace was broadcast on HLN.

Investigators had also questioned the 21-year-old mother about her missing son. The boy has never been found.

Grace was unapologetic when she appeared on "Good Morning America" a week after Duckett's suicide.

"If anything, I would suggest that guilt made her commit suicide," Grace said. "To suggest that a 15- or 20-minute interview can cause someone to commit suicide is focusing on the wrong thing."

Duckett's family says otherwise. "We're alleging that Grace caused her death and caused emotional distress for her family," Skarupo said. "It's a hard thing to prove but we think it's important. They lost a daughter unnecessarily."

Grace defended her hard-line stance to GMA.

"Any interview followed hours and hours of police interrogation of Melinda Duckett. Unfortunately, Melinda Duckett had attempted suicide in the past," she said.

"While I sympathize with her family and know as a firsthand victim of crime myself, you look for somebody to blame, anybody," she said at the time. "And today the family is blaming me. But I would suggest their efforts go toward finding this baby."