By Alyssa Weston
The Youngstown State University Skeggs Lecture Series hosted legal analysts Dan Abrams and Nancy Grace at Stambaugh Auditorium on Tuesday. Before the lecture, Abrams and Grace hosted a private Q&A session for Youngstown State University students.
Abrams is most commonly known as the host of A&E Network’s “LivePD” and “The Dan Abrams Show: Where Politics Meets the Law” on SiriusXM’s P.O.T.U.S. He is the chief legal affairs anchor for ABC News, a best-selling author, former anchor of “Nightline,” chief legal correspondent and previously worked as a analyst for NBC News and general manager of MSNBC. In addition, Abrams is the founder of the “Abrams Media Network.”
Grace notably hosted “Nancy Grace” on HLN and Court TV’s “Closing Arguments.” In addition, Grace is a best-selling author, former prosecutor in a local district attorney’s office in Atlanta and previous contestant on “Dancing with The Stars.”
Although in the same line of business now, Abrams and Grace had very different paths to success.
Abrams was in his second year of law school when Court TV begin. He then made the decision to not practice law, but to take a leap of faith and become a legal commentator. Grace, however, was on track to become an English professor when her fiancé, Keith, was murdered. Since then, Grace has devoted her life to representing and helping victims.
Abrams and Grace often debate high-profile crime cases publically and agreed that it’s easier to argue with someone a person is comfortable with on a regular basis.
“[I] can go and debate someone [I] don’t like once or twice, but then [after that some people] are going to get offended,” Abrams said.
Abrams told students the most impactful case he has worked on was the Florida Bar v. Abrams.
“It was 30-some days nonstop, new legal issues coming up that were monumental. This was going to decide the presidency of the United States and every legal fight had everything on the line at each level,” he said.
Grace poked fun at Abrams’ involvement with politics and said all politicians, regardless of party affiliation, are liars.
“I’d rather try a serial killer than get involved in the Mueller investigation,” she said. “At the end of anything politics, I feel like [people involved] have thrashed around. It’s like wrestling with a pig. You get dirty and the pig likes it.”
Grace told audience members working on the Casey Anthony trial was highly impactful and she wants to make a difference in victim’s lives.
“I like to feel that I’ve done something good for somebody, and I felt that way as a prosecutor because at the end of the trial I knew I had one bad guy put away,” she said.
Abrams and Grace touched on the importance of humanizing victims in the courtroom and the difficulties of removing themselves from emotional cases.
Abrams said as a reporter he makes an effort to detach himself from harder stories, but it’s impossible.
“No matter if you think the defendant is guilty or not guilty there’s still a victim’s family and no matter who did it, they suffer,” he said.
Grace responded, “I do not even try to detach myself from the case because I believe very firmly that a jury, really anyone, can hear and detect detachment and if [I] don’t care about it, why should they care?”
Jaietta Jackson, a communication professor at YSU, brought her 11-year-old son Jibril Jackson, an aspiring reporter, to the session. Jibril Jackson asked Abrams and Grace what their advice is for young children who want to follow in their footsteps.
“I may not be the prettiest, I may not be the smartest … but I can work the hardest and that’s been my theory,” Grace said.
Abrams encouraged the 11-year-old to start his journalism career now.
“People are interested in different kinds of issues in the perspective of an 11, 12 or 13 years old,” he said. “There may be issues that come up in your community which impact kids.”
Audience members asked Abrams about his involvement hosting “LivePD,” and he told the crowd that “LivePD” could possibly come to Youngstown because the show is always looking for new police departments, but that the decision is up to the local sheriff or mayor’s office.
Abrams described “LivePD” as an extension of the work he’s done in the courtroom and said the show aims to give viewers a realistic idea of what law enforcement does.
“I think it’s showing America what it is like to be a police officer,” he said. “It’s more of the day to day encounters both annoying, inspiring, heroic and boring sometimes.”
During the Skeggs Lecture, Abrams and Grace debated and discussed popular legal issues in the media such as the 2019 college admissions bribery scandal allegedly involving actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman.
“It’s an attack on an institution. This is the education system in our great country,” Grace said.
Abrams said he believes the story resonates with so many people because it represents cutting corners and the rich having access to the things they don’t deserve.
The duo also agreed on the guilt of rap musician Robert Sylvester Kelly, known as R. Kelly, and Michael Jackson in recent child molestation and sexual abuse allegations and reflected on past cases such as the O.J. Simpson murder case and the Casey Anthony trial.
All of the Skeggs Lectures are tickets are free to Youngstown students and community members and tickets are sold on a first come, first serve basis. Visit https://ysu.edu/lecture-series to learn upcoming lectures.