CLEARWATER — Convicted of first-degree murder last month in the death of a man she met online, “Hiccup Girl” Jennifer Mee and her lawyers asked a judge for a new trial Wednesday.
Mee’s lawyers argued her case deserves another look, citing problems with jury instructions and new evidence gleaned from comments on an online news story.
“We simply do not believe that the state met its burden, and she certainly should not be serving a life sentence for what conduct they have alleged,” said defense lawyer John Trevena.
Bryant Camareno, another of Mee’s attorneys, submitted printouts of an email exchange he had with the commenter, who identified herself as Rosalea Hughes, about the possible involvement of Jennifer Charron, who was living with Mee and the two men charged in Shannon Griffin’s 2010 death. Charron was the only one of the four not to be charged and testified at Mee’s trial.
Prosecutors argued that a fourth person’s involvement in Griffin’s death wouldn’t have affected Mee’s case and that the allegations raised by her lawyers are hearsay anyway.
“It is speculative at best,” said Assistant State Attorney Jan Olney.
Mee, now 22, became a national sensation six years ago when her inability to stop hiccuping captured the attention of network TV talk shows. Out of the spotlight, the St. Petersburg high school dropout’s life sputtered, though; in 2010, she and her roommates hatched a plot to rob a man she had met on a social networking site, authorities said. She arranged for 22-year-old Griffin to meet two of her roommates — her then-boyfriend, Lamont Newton, and Laron Raiford — in a dark alley in St. Petersburg to buy marijuana, according to investigators.
Instead, the two men tried to rob Griffin, who was shot by Raiford after he resisted. Raiford was convicted of first-degree murder last month and was sentenced to life in prison. Newton has yet to go to trial.
After being convicted on Sept. 19, Mee was sentenced to life in prison as well.
Key evidence in the state’s case against Mee was a recording of a jailhouse telephone call with her mother in which Mee says she “set it all up.”
“Her statements to the police and to her mom show there as a plan,” Assistant State Attorney Chris LaBruzzo said. “Her statement showing that she in fact set it all up are an important part of this.”
Mee’s lawyers argued the phone conversation wasn’t enough to hang a conviction on and that she wasn’t specifically referring to the murder.
“The state’s case was legally insufficient, the facts that they presented,” Trevena said.
Trevena also argued that Circuit Judge Nancy Moate Ley did not adequately instruct the jury about how to come up with a verdict.
Ley is expected to rule on the motion for a new trial by Friday, but Mee’s defense team isn’t optimistic.
“I do not believe Judge Ley will grant our motion because she would essentially be reversing herself, and I don’t see that occurring,” Trevena said.
If that happens, the defense likely will appeal Mee’s conviction, he said.