'Hiccup girl' murder trial underway in FloridaBy TAMARA LUSH , Associated Press
Sep. 18, 2013 3:26 PM ET
CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) — A woman who gained fame because of her uncontrolled hiccupping as a teenager set up a robbery that went bad and ended in murder, Florida prosecutors said Wednesday.
Jennifer Mee, 22, is on trial for first-degree murder. Opening statements were presented Wednesday in Pinellas County Court, with the prosecution saying that Mee lured the victim to an abandoned home under the pretense of buying marijuana in October of 2010. Once there, two of Mee's friends robbed him at gunpoint — but the victim struggled and was shot four times.
"She set everything up," said Assistant State Attorney Chris LaBruzzo, pointing at a sad-faced Mee.
As a 15-year-old, Mee developed a case of the hiccups that wouldn't go away. Videos of her hiccupping gained her national attention, as did her attempts to quell the problem. She tried home remedies and consulted medical specialists, a hypnotist and an acupuncturist, until the hiccups finally stopped on their own. She appeared on several TV shows and while on the "Today" show, was hugged by fellow guest and country music star Keith Urban.
Her attorney, John Trevena, mentioned Mee's fame during his opening statement.
"Ms. Mee is known as the Hiccup Girl," Trevena told the 12-member jury. "Ms. Mee was, at the age of 15, subject to extraordinary amount of local and national publicity because of a medical condition."
Trevena said prior to the trial that his client suffers from Tourette's Syndrome and schizophrenia, but he is not using an insanity defense. A court psychologist who evaluated Mee on Wednesday said she was competent to stand trial.
Mee and two men were charged in the death of Shannon Griffin, a 22-year-old Wal-Mart worker. Prosecutors say Mee lured Griffin to a St. Petersburg home under the pretense of buying marijuana — but instead, two of Mee's friends robbed him at gunpoint. Griffin struggled with the suspects and was shot several times.
Detectives said Mee accepted a friend request from Griffin on a social networking website five or six days before the robbery, but it was unclear if Griffin had recognized her as the "hiccup girl."
Mee's co-defendant, LaRon Raiford, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in August. Lamont Newton, the other co-defendant who was also Mee's boyfriend at the time of the crime, has not yet gone to trial.
Trevena said Wednesday that Mee did not orchestrate the robbery and instead said the evidence will show that the shooting was because Raiford thought his girlfriend was getting too friendly with Griffin. Raiford, Newton and Raiford's girlfriend — who was never charged — conspired to blame the crime on Mee because she is younger and they believed her more sympathetic to authorities, Trevena said.
"Four shots takes quite amount of thought and dexterity," said Trevena. "That seems to be indicative more of a crime of passion."
At issue is whether Mee is a bystander or the person who planned the robbery — prosecutors say she played an active role in planning the robbery, which led to Griffin's death. Under Florida law, people can be convicted of murder if they commit a serious felony crime — such as robbery — and someone was killed as a result.
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