"Somewhere out there, the devil is dancing tonight."
That's how Nancy Grace summed up her feelings about the jury's verdict in the Casey Anthony murder trial, which rocked the media world—and Grace's in particular—when it was handed down on Tuesday afternoon.
"I felt sick," Grace said on ABC's "Nightline" last night. "Because I believe … I know—I don't believe it, I know—that this was a miscarriage of justice. When our system fails, as a victims' rights advocate and as a crime victim myself, I take it very personally."
Grace's loud, passionate coverage of the case—and her steady barrage of sniping at the "tot mom" defendant, as Grace has dubbed Casey—drew record ratings for HLN, and sharp criticism from those who feel she's exploiting the death of 2-year-old Caylee Anthony for personal gain.
"Want to feel like every other show is an island of sanity?" PaidContent's Staci Kramer wrote in a Twitter post. "Spend a few minutes on HLN w/Nancy Grace & her supporting cast."
Comedian Andy Borowitz quipped: "CNN to Cover New Casey Anthony Murder Trial When Nancy Grace Kills Her."
Grace, however, dismissed the criticism.
"I don't see what's unethical about discussing the truth," she said. "When you're in a court of law, you're held to a different standard. We are not in a court of law. We are not shrouded from the evidence.
Grace added: "The day that it is unethical to care about the murder of a 2-year-old little girl who ends up duct-taped and thrown into a swamp is the day I will retire and rue the justice system."
But Grace has a good reason to care, and milk the trial for all it's worth.
HLN beat MSNBC in total viewers in June, averaging 982,000 in primetime (an increase of 86 percent) and 292,000 25-to-54-year-olds--the best month in its history. The CNN-owned cable network was also tops in total viewers and the coveted 25-54 demographic between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.--a showing that outperformed the lead cable ratings giant Fox News.
Not surprisingly, Grace's 8 p.m. show—No. 2 in its timeslot behind Fox News' Bill O'Reilly--had its best month ever in total viewers (1.5 million, up 87 percent) and was the third-most-watched cable news program among 25- to 54-year-olds in June.
Make no mistake: Tuesday was Grace's Super Bowl. She appeared live on her HLN show from outside the Orlando Florida courtroom following the verdict, and followed up that appearance with interviews on ABC's "Nightline" and early Wednesday on "Good Morning America."
There was plenty of outrage on HLN's mother network as well. Former O.J. Simpson prosecutor Marcia Clark told CNN host Piers Morgan last night that she was more surprised about the Casey Anthony verdict than the one in the O.J. case.
But Jose Baez, one of Anthony's lawyers, said the jury "heard the evidence" and not "the Frankenstein-like lynch mob that ensued throughout the last three years."
"I hope that this is a lesson to those of you having indulged in media assassination," Cheney Mason, Baez's co-counsel, said during a press conference outside the courtroom. "I can tell you that my colleagues coast to coast and border to border have condemned this whole process of lawyers getting on television to talk about cases they don't know a damn thing about."
Mason was likely not referring to Geraldo Rivera, who got an exclusive interview with Anthony's legal team after the verdict was announced.
Rivera, a former lawyer, praised Mason and Baez on Fox News.
"From a lawyer to two lawyers who have litigated their tails off in a very successful way, however unpopular it may be to most of the people watching that right now, I congratulate you on a really brilliant outcome," Rivera said. "Good luck to you going forward."
"Actually, [the] defense should be thanking media coverage," Dan Abrams, ABC's chief legal analyst, wrote on Twitter. "Because jurors in high profile cases take more care on law."
"There was no assassination," Grace added. "'Tot mom' is going to walk out of jail, probably tomorrow, and she's probably going to get a million-dollar book deal, maybe a quarter-million dollars for licensing fees for photos, and she's gonna be on easy street living the 'sweet life' that she's got tattooed on her back."