“When you’ve seen so much murder up close, as I have, you think there’s nothing left that can surprise you,” veteran prosecutor and TV legal analyst Nancy Grace says in the opening moments of her new series on Oxygen, “Injustice With Nancy Grace.”
In October 2005, murder hit home for Grace — for the second time. Daniel Horowitz, a prominent criminal defense attorney and fellow TV analyst came home one evening to find his wife, Pamela Vitale, gruesomely murdered.
Grace and Horowitz sparred on-camera from time to time — Grace coming from the point of view of a prosecutor, and Horowitz from the defense — and they enjoyed a friendly relationship off-camera.
“I remember the first moment I saw Daniel on-camera,” Grace says on the show. “He was into it; he meant it. I could see … that he believed in the criminal justice system, like me. Even though we were on two different sides of the fence, it really showed.”
At the time of his wife’s murder, Horowitz was defending Susan Polk, who was accused of stabbing her husband, psychologist, Felix Polk, to death, according to the Los Angeles Times. Investigators at the time probed players in the Polk case in their search for suspects who may have a motive for killing Horowitz’s wife, but turned up nothing.
Horowitz made his name, in part, by becoming the youngest person ever to sit on the Alameda County death penalty panel in California and taking on seemingly unwinnable cases, according to the Trial Lawyer magazine. His cases were featured on national TV programs like “60 Minutes,” and when Scott Peterson went to trial for the murder of his wife, Lacey, in 2003, he appeared on CNN and MSNBC to provide commentary.
He also became a regular on Grace’s programs — including several of the first episodes of her show on HLN, also according to Trial Lawyer.
Grace and Horowitz went toe-to-toe on camera, debating some of the most high-profile cases of the time — from Scott Peterson to Michael Jackson. Still, however, Grace remained close with Horowitz and Vitale, who she and others thought of as a perfect couple.
“He and I would argue over anything at the drop of a hat — viciously,” Grace says on the “Injustice” premiere. “Then, we would laugh and have dinner, the three of us, and talk about his cases and my cases and life. The three of us became very, very good friends. They were as happy as two peas in a pod.”
So, when Vitale was murdered in the couple’s home in Lafayette, California, their living room turned into a gruesome scene, and police labeled Horowitz a suspect, his and Grace’s relationship took on a whole new dimension. Nancy Grace, a career prosecutor, suddenly watched as her longtime friend, a defense attorney, spoke on TV as a suspect in his own wife’s murder.
There was one thing Grace was certain of, however: Horowitz was innocent.
“He called me and he said, ‘Pamela’s been murdered,’” Grace recalls on the show. “His voice was different … high-pitched. It didn’t exactly sound like him, but I knew it was him. I want to know the truth, but, to me, I already knew the truth. The truth is, he would never, ever do this. But the cops were not as convinced as I am.”
Still, Horowitz’s TV appearances made Grace nervous — they also raised police eyebrows, Bruce Gerstman, a former Contra Costa Times Reporter, says on “Injustice.” Horowitz took his fight on-camera, claiming in one appearance that if people didn’t like the way he was searching for his wife’s killer, “I don’t give a damn!”
Grace recalls watching Horowitz on TV and said, “All I can think about is, ‘Dan, you’re digging your own grave. Just stop talking!’”
Eventually, police found Vitale’s killer — a young man living nearby Horowitz and Vitale. Grace described the killer as “pure evil,” and tells Oxygen that, during his trial, she “prayed to God” that the jury would see him the way she did, and lock him up for good.
To get the full story of Nancy Grace’s personal connection to the shocking murder of Pamela Vitale — and why Daniel Horowitz’s fight still goes on today — tune in to the premiere of “Injustice With Nancy Grace” on Oxygen Saturday, July 13, at 6/5 p.m. ET/PT.
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