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Nancy Grace Leaving HLN After Twelve Years: Will Provocative Former Prosecutor Return To CNN?

The formidable and controversial Nancy Grace will be leaving HLN when her contract expires in October. The former prosecutor has called HLN home for over 12 years and in an exclusive interview with True Hollywood Reporter, Grace shared that she has been grappling with this decision for the past three years. The cable news host broke the news to her Atlanta and New York-based staff simultaneously via video conference call Thursday morning. The majority of Nancy Grace’s staff has been with her since she got her start co-hosting on Court TV with the late Johnny Cochran at CNN Center headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, back in the 1990s.

A spokesman from HLN told the Hollywood Reporter that the current team will be utilized in a new series that will replace Nancy Grace in the current 8 p.m. time slot following the airing of the final episode on October 13. CNN executive Ken Jautz — who enticed Grace back in 2005 to join the network when it was called CNN Headline News — was told in June of her plans. Her biggest concern was ensuring that her staff (many of them have been with her from the beginning) was relocated into different positions after the show ends.

“Nancy has worked tirelessly on behalf of the missing and exploited for more than a decade on HLN. She gave a voice to the voiceless, and we are extremely grateful for her contributions to the network. During her remarkable career at HLN, she led the coverage of two of this century’s most talked about and infamous trials, Casey Anthony and Jodi Arias. We will always be champions of Nancy’s mission and are excited to see what’s next for her.”

Nancy Grace had a 20-year career as a prosecutor and turned it into a successful career as the host of her own cable show. The 56-year-old former prosecutor began her law career after her fiancé was murdered when she was 19-years-old. That traumatic incident compelled her to become an Atlanta prosecutor and crime crusader, and her nightly show frequently highlights missing children, murdered and abused women, negligent parents, and self-perceived miscarriages of justice.

Nancy Grace and Johnny Cochran. Grace will leave HLN in October
Nancy Grace became a cable news mainstay during the Casey Anthony investigation and trial and during the course of the filicide case, she publicly tried and convicted the acquitted and hated woman. Her coverage of the case heavily dominated other media outlet’s coverage of the story and her audience draw at the time was 4.57 million compared to the 291,000 in May of this year. However, she remains the most watched and talked about television personality on HLN, although her show only ranks 42nd out of all cable news programs and is two spots behind Fox News’ Red Eye, which airs weekdays at 3 a.m.

The victim’s advocate she admits not quite knowing what her next steps will be but whatever she does next it will involve “a very large digital component.”

“I will always be wedded to a traditional platform — which is TV, God help me. My plan is to merge those two in an effective way, in my voice, the ‘anti-crime’ voice. Our show has never really been about me. It has been about the stories that we tell and the people we talk about and the mysteries we try to solve and the children we try to bring home. There’s an entire section of our population that I want to reach.”

Grace’s third novel (and fourth book) — Murder in the Courthouse –will conveniently hit stores October 11, two days before her last Nancy Grace show airs. The Hallmark Channel will air the first in a series of movies based on the characters from her novels in late October, starring Kellie Martin as Grace’s fictional alter-ego, Hailey Dean.

She is quick to dismiss the speculation that she is trying to reach a younger audience in a new outlet, although it is hard to dismiss her social media reach. Nancy Grace has two million Facebook likes compared to Megyn Kelly’s one million and she wants to take advantage mediums such as podcasts and live video to increase her fan base.

Nancy Grace has a lot of critics who see her rhetoric as a detriment to the justice system. She has often been criticized for trying cases in the court of public opinion and creating provocative monikers for her stories. The late New York Times media columnist, David Carr, was one of those critics.

“Since her show began in 2005, the presumption of innocence has found a willful enemy in the former prosecutor turned broadcast judge-and-jury.”

She named Casey Anthony “Tot Mom” and Toni Medrano “Vodka Mom,” and because of Grace’s coverage of that case (Medrano was accused of being drunk and crushing her newborn), Medrano doused herself with gasoline and lit herself on fire. Her family settled with CNN out of court. Nancy Grace’s critics say she is more intent on inciting mobs than providing a voice to crime victims.

Nancy Grace has her fans and they love her Southern drawl and the passionate way she advocates for children and victims of crime.

Will you miss the Nancy Grace Show? Sound off in the comment section.

[Photo by/Matt Sayles AP Images]