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Atlanta-Nancy Grace, the host of a self-titled legal show on CNN Headline News, “played fast and loose” with her ethical duties as a Fulton County, Ga., prosecutor in 1990, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled. The May 2 decision by the 11th Circuit upheld a triple murder conviction won by Grace, explaining that her actions didn’t change the result of the trial. It is the third time appellate courts have admonished Grace for her conduct as a prosecutor in Georgia. Grace served as an assistant district attorney in Fulton County from 1987 to 1996, leaving that year to join Court TV as a commentator. The three-judge panel criticized Grace for not following her obligations to disclose to the defendant’s lawyer information about other possible suspects. The 11th Circuit also agreed with a magistrate who found it hard to believe that Grace did not knowingly use a detective’s false testimony that there were no other suspects. “Despite the failure of the prosecutor to fulfill her responsibilities,” wrote Judge William H. Pryor Jr., the Georgia courts were not unreasonable to have upheld the convictions of Herbert Connell Stephens. A Fulton County jury held Stephens responsible for the June 1990 murders of John Davis, Toria Pope and Tony Daniel at the Red Oaks housing project in Atlanta. Stephens was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences. Grace last week denied hiding that other people might have been involved with the crime, noting that one of her witnesses said so in open court. “While some of the comments of the court are hurtful to me,” she said, “I am thankful for the unanimous decision” keeping the verdict intact. Stephens’ lawyer, G. Terry Jackson of Savannah, Ga.’s Jackson & Schiavone, said he was disappointed with the ruling and would appeal. “It’s very clear Mr. Stephens did not receive a fair trial.” Stephens’ original trial lawyer, Fulton County public defender Kenneth D. Kondritzer, called the court’s description of Grace as playing “fast and loose” with ethical rules “an understatement.” Stephen Gillers, a legal ethics professor at New York University School of Law, wrote in an e-mail that Grace’s actions regarding the detective were serious “because submitting false sworn testimony to a court is probably the gravest violation of legal ethics.” The major issue before the courts in reviewing the case was the existence of arrest warrants for two others suspected of the murders. Stephens’ lawyers have said that information could have steered the jury to acquit Stephens. - ALM

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