Recently, I had the pleasure of discovering an older movie called “Six Degrees of Separation”, a film adaptation of a play written by Pulitzer Prize winner John Guare. The story was inspired by real-life con artist David Hampton who impersonated Sidney Poitier’s son and managed to fool many people in upper crust circles. In the movie, Stockard Channing was magnificent playing a socialite married to art dealer Donald Sutherland. Will Smith got jiggy with it and gave a super performance in the role of David Hampton. This movie is a real gem.
The title refers to a theory that all people on Earth are connected to one another by no more than six separate individuals. Not unlike the idea of “it’s a small world.’’ The theory maintains that through a series of connections or steps, all people have the potential to know one another on a first name basis through mutual acquaintances.
Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy first proposed the theory in 1929 but had little to support it. In the 1960s, the Milgram’s Small World Experiment run by a researcher at Harvard University conducted various not entirely scientific experiments testing the truth of the theory. They asked initial participants to mail a letter to friends who would then mail it to their friends, then friends of friends, until it would reach a designated stranger in Massachusetts. Usually, the packets that reached the targeted recipients got there after five to six mailings.
Facebook, along with the University of Milan, organized a study in 2011. They analyzed information from 721 million active members. Researchers found that the average number of connections from one randomly selected person to another was 4.74. And if you limit it to just the United States, it was just 4.37.
On Twitter, a network is created when users follow each other. According to a study by social media monitoring firm Sysomos, five or less steps separate almost all of Twitter’s 5 billion users.
Even Hollywood had its own version of Six Degrees of Separation with Kevin Bacon. The game “Six degrees of Kevin Bacon” began in 1994 at Albright College in Pennsylvania, where three friends holed up in a room watching TV realized that Kevin Bacon was everywhere.
Google has incorporated the ‘’Sig Degrees of Kevin Bacon’’ in its search function. This game lets you connect any actor, living or dead, to Bacon.
Let’s try one: say, Tom Cruise.
“A FEW GOOD MEN”
TOM CRUISE: (As Lt. Daniel Kaffee) “Colonel Jessup, did you order the code red?”
GREENE: “Oh, yes, that famous line from “A Few Good Men,” which also starred Kevin Bacon. They were side by side. So that gives Tom Cruise a Bacon number of one.”
The Six Degrees game can apply to anyone really so for a laugh, a friend and I decided to play the “Six Degrees of Separation of Nancy Grace.” I find it scary to think that I could be separated from her by only six people or less, but it was worth a shot.
As she is not a famous actor, but a television crime ‘fighter’ and mommy dearest of twins, I had to find people connections related to her life.
In order to be able to connect the dots, we needed a little biography on our girl Nancy. And it had to be a real one, as she has a knack for twisting the truth.
As she says in her TV promo: “I like to investigate.’’ So do we, Nancy, so do we!
She was born in Georgia and even after the death of her supposed fiance, she studied law at New York University and found her way to the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office in Atlanta where she served as Special Prosecutor. Her aggressive approach led her to be hired as a TV co-host with Johnny Cochran and on Court TV and finally HLN.
She was accused of prosecutorial misconduct several times in her career and sued a few times while on CNN because of her outrageous lies and slander of people involved in the crime stories she reported on. She is a huge liability but the producers prefer paying up and keeping their sacred cow until the milk stops flowing. Viewers are attracted to her like honey to the bee when she spews her hatred. It is quite a spectacle to see her go after Casey Anthony, Jodi Arias, the Duke Lacrosse players or anyone her heart desires as long as she can shred them to pieces. TV host and funny man Jon Stewart has made some laugh out loud videos about her exploits.
According to Nancy, in 1980, her fiance Keith Griffin, was shot five times in the head and the back by a 24 year old stranger and thug who stole $35 from his wallet. Police tracked the killer and he denied involvement. At trial, again according to Nancy, she testified and waited for three days for deliberations to end. The DA asked her if she wanted the death penalty and she said no. The verdict was guilty – life in prison – and appeals ensued. She describes her suffering and her subsequent rise to the status of bulldog prosecutor and anchor on Court TV and HLN as crusader for victim’s rights and professional vilifier.
Great story but most of it turned out to be false; she claims she was engaged to Keith Griffin who was murdered and the man who killed him is serving a life sentence. Her engagement, however, was ‘secret’ so we will never know if she was really supposed to marry this lucky guy.
In fact, Griffin was shot by a former co-worker whose name was Tommy McCoy and he was only 19 and had no prior convictions. He confessed to the crime the evening he was arrested. The jury convicted him in a matter of hours, not days. Prosecutors asked for the death penalty but didn’t get it, because the young man was mildly retarded. Nancy was never consulted and McCoy never filed an appeal; he filed a writ of habeas five years ago, and it was rejected. Nancy also misreported the date of the incident – it was 1979, not 1980 — and Griffin was 23, not 25.
Nancy talks incessantly about her fiance’s murder and knowing what we know, it makes you wonder if she is living in the same dimension as the rest of us. She also talks about her twins all the time and we know they exist because she waves their pictures on her show and they were on display during her stint on “Dancing with the Stars.”
With all this in mind, we had to find Six Degrees to Nancy.”
Here is what I came up with and it was way too easy:
I follow Mark Geragos on twitter and he recently wrote a book in which he calls her one of the “blond angry women” he has had to deal with. And it’s not a compliment. So I went on my account and wrote to Geragos that after reading his book, I thought it was true that angry blondes had more fun. He replied gregariously that it was very true. As he had been on her show many times, I had my connection. So it was a win!
There was only one degree between us.
But that was too easy because on Twitter, you can be connected to anyone. I then decided to try through my people channel.
It turned out to be more difficult.
I did not know anyone in Georgia or on CNN and I could not channel her dead fiance and the twins are off limits.
But I thought of my ex who was a lawyer and had gone to the Playboy Mansion.
Nancy would never have been invited to the Mansion or God help us to pose in the Magazine but she was a guest of Larry King who had Hugh Hefner on his show several times. Bingo! It was only 3 degrees of separation.
I was actually amazed at how easy it was. And it makes you go through your whole Rolodex of names and acquaintances.
But my friend had to find her Six Degrees to Nancy Grace and not through my connections.
She had a cousin who was a cop and he went on a trip to Florida while Cayle Anthony was missing. He met and talked to a volunteer who knew another volunteer who knew Tim Miller from EquuSearch who happened to be on the Nancy Grace show.
She was 4 people away from Nancy.
So believe it or not, we all have Six Degrees of Separation to Nancy!
End of the game or was it? As amusing as it was, I found it too simple for my taste until I realized that there were other degrees of separation that connected Nancy Grace to a truly critical part of the legal process: jury selection.
It so happens that during voir dire for Casey Anthony’s jury selection, the lawyers decided to ask the potential jurors if they watched the Nancy Grace show. They were quizzed about it. Did they watch it? How often? What did they think about the show? So if a juror was a regular viewer of her show and lapped it up, you could pretty well determine that they were pro-prosecution and out the door they went.
The defense had consulted famous jury consultant Richard Gabriel for this case and to organize a mock trial. Their subsequent choice of jurors turned out to be a total success because they won an acquittal. Gabriel wanted ‘’jurors who were strong enough to ask the hard questions and resist the public’s demand for a conviction unless they felt the prosecution had proved their case.’’ The win was not because of Jose Baez who frankly, was lacking in experience, but because of the carefully picked citizens that were sitting in the jury box. In fact, the only juror that faced the cameras to give an interview after the verdict, declared that there was no place on the air for shows like Nancy Grace. Proof is in the verdict! The 6 degrees of Separation of NG became a tool to weed out the jurors leaning towards conviction.
The legal game of degrees of separation of Nancy has picked up more steam. During the George Zimmerman voir dire, defense attorney Mark O’Mara asked the jurors if they watched the Nancy Grace show which led to another win for the defense!
During the trial of Dr. Martin MacNeill, the game was not played during voir dire, but the degrees of separation came in handy during the cross examination of prosecution witness, forensic pathologist Dr. Joshua Perper. This sober medical examiner was called to debunk the defense theory that the victim died of heart problems. Perper’s theory was that the victim had drowned after ingesting too many drugs and implied that it was with the ‘help’ of her husband who was on trial for her murder. But the defense decided to play six degrees with the doctor. ‘’Weren’t you on the Nancy Grace show to discuss the case?’’
He actually had been on the show and his testimony on the stand contradicted what he had said when questioned by Nancy. He also admitted that the cause of death was undetermined so it did not bring a victory to the defense but it definitely rattled the prosecution to once again have used Nancy as a potential defense ‘tool’. This time, the jury was already picked so the game was less successful. So it seems to work its magic best during voir dire but who knows? The sky is the limit with such a valuable tool to measure people’s gullibility vis-a-vis HLN.
So any degree of separation with Miss Disgrace could mean you have a chance to win your case. Who knew that this fake justice seeker would one day be used to really fight crime? Every time someone is associated with her, no matter to what degree, they are immediately identified as trouble and the case has a better chance to be solved and be less biased. Maybe it is poetic justice after all.
If you are not sure about any legal question, find the six degrees of separation of Nancy Grace. This game is a winner and I am thinking of asking Google to incorporate it in its search engine.
UPDATE: Ding Dong the witch is gone! Nancy Grace is finally off the air. It seems that Grace’s slot will be filled by Ashleigh Banfield. Let’s hope that this new legal news format will have more decorum.