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Nancy Grace not responsible for suspect’s suicide

CNN anchor Nancy Grace may have killed someone.

Well, she didn’t actually kill anyone. She didn’t even lay her hands on anyone in a violent way. What she did do was aggressively interview the mother of Trenton Duckett, a 2-year-old Orlando boy who has been missing since August. Melinda Duckett, Trenton’s mother, fatally shot herself on Sept. 8, just hours before the interview with Grace was aired.CNN and Grace face a lawsuit filed on behalf of Duckett’s estate, which claims Grace is financially responsible for Melinda’s wrongful death.

Jay Paul Deratany, the Duckett family’s attorney, told the Washington Post, “It’s not just about the questioning. It’s about the misrepresentation with the knowledge that she was emotionally distraught.”

By”misrepresentation,” Deratany is referring to the fact that Grace asked Duckett questions that clearly showed she considered Duckett a suspect in the child’s disappearance and possible death. Grace used an elevated tone of voice to ask Duckett where she was at the time Trenton disappeared, slapped her hand on a desk several times and, in general, behaved more like a police interrogator than a reporter.

Yes, Grace was mean. She may have even been inappropriate when asking questions better left for law enforcement. Given the tenor of her questions, Grace certainly considered Duckett a suspect.

But authorities do, too. Duckett has been named the prime suspect in her son’s disappearance. Information obtained about her whereabouts at the time of her son’s disappearance has led authorities to begin searching those areas with dogs trained to find corpses.

The lawsuit brought by Duckett’s estate is even more problematic, however. Whether Duckett is guilty of murdering her own child is a matter for investigators, but how far a reporter might go in an interview is not. Reporters must not be threatened with wrongful death suits every time an emotionally unstable person they interview commits suicide.

If Grace is financially responsible for pushing Duckett over the edge, one must wonder about the fate of employers who fire employees who then commit suicide. The same applies to breaking off a relationship or requesting a divorce – if a person is emotionally unstable enough, practically anything can send them over the edge.

The fact that Duckett was such a person is not the fault of Grace. Duckett’s choice to end her own life isn’t Grace’s responsibility, be it financially, legally or morally.