ST. PETERSBURG — Two weeks after "Hiccup Girl" Jennifer Mee was found guilty of first-degree murder, her attorneys have filed a motion seeking a new trial.
The lawyers claim Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Nancy Moate Ley erred in matters of jury instructions, and they also say new evidence has surfaced about a key witness in the case.
Defense attorney John Trevena predicted that if Ley does not order a new trial, "I believe it is a near certainty that the appeals court will reverse and remand for a new trial."
Mee became nationally known as a 15-year-old high school student when she suffered bouts of hiccups that lasted weeks at a time. Then in 2010, at age 19, she was arrested along with two male roommates and charged with the first-degree murder of Shannon Griffin, 22. Police said Mee lured Griffin to a home near downtown St. Petersburg, where her roommates planned to rob him. Instead, Griffin was shot and killed.
No one thinks Mee shot Griffin, but under Florida law, people can be charged with murder if someone dies during the commission of another serious crime, such as robbery, even if they didn't pull the trigger.
The motion, drafted by another of Mee's attorneys, Bryant Camareno, says new evidence has surfaced in the form of an online comment on tampabay.com, the website of the Tampa Bay Times.
After testimony concluded in the trial last month, the motion says a woman who identified herself as Rosalea Hughes posted a comment on a story about witness Jennifer Charron, who was the only one of Mee's three roommates not charged in Griffin's murder.
Hughes "posted a comment that Ms. Charron went around telling people that she 'had her boyfriend killed,' " the motion says.
This is important, Trevena and Camareno said, because it coincides with their argument at trial that Mee never intended to set up a robbery and instead the killing involved a "love triangle" among Charron, Griffin and one of Mee's male roommates.
The motion also argues that jury instructions should have been handled differently.
Jurors should have been given an instruction about the legal concept of an "independent act." This is the idea that Mee's two male roommates — both also charged in the murder — may have acted independently without Mee's knowledge. Larone Cordale Raiford has been convicted in the case and also was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Another roommate, Lamont Antonio Newton, awaits trial.
When jurors were deliberating last month, they asked a question that related to another legal concept known as being a "principal" and whether it applied to the crime of robbery. Ley gave jurors an answer, but the defense thinks it was the wrong one.