The Grace of Wrath
I don't know why Melinda Duckett committed suicide. And I am not remotely willing to go so far as to say that Nancy Grace, the eternally angry and vigilantified cable talk show host, contributed in any way to Duckett's suicide by conducting an "aggressive" interview with the mother (who may or may not have been a suspect in the disappearance of her two-year-old boy, Trenton) the day before she took her own life.
Here is how the Associated Press covered the news: "Two weeks after telling police that her son had been snatched from his crib, Melinda Duckett found herself reeling in an interview with TV's famously prosecutorial Nancy Grace. Before it was over, Grace was pounding her desk and loudly demanding to know: 'Where were you? Why aren't you telling us where you were that day?' A day after the taping, Duckett, 21, shot herself to death, deepening the mystery of what happened to the boy."
There are plenty of other perfectly logical reasons why Duckett would have taken her own life including, obviously, the fact that she may have harmed her son and then couldn't live with herself. And, presumably, no one forced her to endure the Wrath of Grace's evangelical scorn during an interview. Perhaps soon we'll have more answers. In the meantime, Grace said on the air the other night: "I do not feel our show is to blame for what happened to Melinda Duckett" and, really, what else could she say?
Grace issued a statement earlier this week just after the suicide occured. It read: "We feel a responsibility to bring attention to this case in the hopes of helping find Trenton Duckett, who remains missing. Our goal in our continuing coverage of Trenton's disappearance is to enlist the public's help in finding him... While Ms. Duckett's death is an extremely sad development, we remain hopeful that Trenton will be found safe, and we will continue to cover the case until it is solved." Not a whole heckuva lot of compassion for Melinda Duckett (only 21, remember) in that statement, right? That's probably why Duckett's family feels that Grace "bashed" her into suicide.
Me? I am in a waiting mode. But if in the end it turns out that Grace did play a role in Duckett's suicide I would not be the most shocked person in the world. In fact, I'm surprised that violence hasn't surrounded her shtick already and more often. The combination of rage, revenge, accusation and innuendo that permeates her show and her television personality is precisely the sort of roiling, viscious, corrosive potion that leads people to think they are heroes when they are about to act as villians. I have often worried for Grace's own personal safety, figuring that it was just as likely that someone who was negatively affected by her show would try to take her out as it was conceivable that someone would in the end decide to allow Grace to become, literally, a femme fatale.
Ask any divorce or family law attorney and they will tell you that the most important thing they do is to ratchet down emotions when family and friends and reputations and lives are at stake. That's why that particular area of the law is almost always the one with the most personal peril for attorneys. But you only need to watch Grace's show once to know that she is racing to embrace and embellish what real-life working lawyers are scrambling to avoid. You just can't rev people up, all the time, and constantly bring more heat than light to a subject, without attracting the worst angels of our nature. It may make for good ratings. It may make a cadre of people decide to follow you like a prophet. It may even get you a book deal and a publicist. But in the end someone is going to get hurt.
Maybe that someone isn't Melinda Duckett, who may or may not have had other reasons for ending her short, already-tragic life. But as sure as I am typing this there will be more trouble for Grace if she continues to play prosecutor without a judge around to reel her in when she has gone too far. Her jury of viewers may dig her act. But that doesn't make it right. Just ask the Duckett family today.
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