Saturday, December 16, 2017
News Roundup

Judge allows 'Hiccup Girl' Jennifer Mee to give interviews

LARGO — A judge on Friday refused to stop "Hiccup Girl" Jennifer Mee from giving interviews to the media in the final days before her murder trial.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Nancy Moate Ley also refused an unusual request to allow the Dr. Phil show to have a cellphone-sized video camera in the courtroom to interview Mee during breaks in her trial.

Next week's trial of Mee is expected to attract widespread media attention. Mee and her attorney, John Trevena, scheduled interviews in the Pinellas County jail with the Today show, Dr. Phil, Inside Edition, Bay News 9 and the Tampa Bay Times.

But prosecutors objected in a motion filed Wednesday, saying the media blitz "could make it difficult to select an impartial jury." It also said potential jurors could be exposed to "irrelevant and inadmissible statements" designed to "elicit sympathy for the defendant."

Ley said she believed impartial jurors can be found.

After the hearing, the Sheriff's Office and Trevena scheduled the media interviews for Monday morning, but that didn't end the controversy.

Prosecutors said they would send a homicide detective to sit in on the interviews, with a video camera, in case Mee says something incriminating. Trevena objects, saying "that's pure intimidation."

Trevena has said Mee wants to do the interviews and has a First Amendment right to do so.

Jurors typically are asked whether they have read news coverage of cases to ensure they haven't decided someone's guilt before a trial begins.

Also Friday, Trevena said the Dr. Phil show was interested in providing a small video camera to interview Mee during breaks in the trial. He said the footage would be aired at some point after the trial.

Trevena explained later that a member of the legal team could have interviewed Mee during courtroom breaks. This camera would have been in addition to the usual news cameras expected to be used by photographers throughout the trial.

"If your question to me is, 'Judge Ley, can we have Dr. Phil's little camera or recorder in the courtroom for breaks in the trial …' my answer is no thank you," Ley said.

Diane Dimond, a reporter who specializes in covering criminal justice issues, said in an interview she had never heard of a lawyer carrying a camera for a TV show.

Dimond said Joe Amendola, attorney for convicted child molester and retired Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, arranged a pretrial interview with NBC sports anchor Bob Costas and facilitated an audio interview aired on Penn State radio platforms before his sentencing.

Both interviews, intended to humanize Sandusky and present his perspective, were used as evidence against him, Dimond said. "My warning to the lawyer is: The hand that feeds can also bite you," she said.

One of the other people accused in the St. Petersburg murder was convicted last month in a trial that received scant publicity. Laron Cordale Raiford, 23, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The third defendant, Lamont Antonio Newton, 25, will go on trial after Mee.

St. Petersburg police said the trio plotted to rob Shannon Griffin, 22. He was found shot to death at a vacant home just north of downtown.

Under Florida law, someone can be convicted of murder if he or she commits a serious felony, such as robbery, and someone is killed. That's what happened here, prosecutors say.

Comments
Forecast: Weekend brings sunny skies and warmer temperatures

Forecast: Weekend brings sunny skies and warmer temperatures

After a cold front across Tampa Bay, temperatures are on the rise this weekend, said WTSP 10Weather meteorologist Ric Kearbey.href="http://www.tampabay.com/specials/2015/graphics/macros/css/base.css"> 10News WTSPThe latest Tampa Bay-ar...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Firefighters injured after early-morning blaze at Tampa strip mall

Firefighters injured after early-morning blaze at Tampa strip mall

TAMPA — Three firefighters were injured early Saturday morning battling a fire at a W Waters Avenue strip mall, according to Tampa Fire Rescue.Firefighters said the two-alarm blaze appeared to come from a nail salon at the plaza on 2202 W Waters Ave....
Updated: 1 hour ago
Jones: Tony Dungy didn’t leave the Bucs on the clearance rack

Jones: Tony Dungy didn’t leave the Bucs on the clearance rack

It is and always will be the greatest debate in Tampa Bay sports history.Jon Gruden or Tony Dungy?You don’t even need to say anything more than that. Bucs fans already know what you’re talking about.Gruden or Dungy?Who was most responsible for the on...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays’ trade silence likely a short-lived phenomenon

Rays’ trade silence likely a short-lived phenomenon

LAKE BUENA VISTA — There were a lot of reasons the Rays didn’t start the process of trading some of their bigger-name, higher-paid players at last week’s winter meetings.Most obvious was them not finding the just-right deal to move closer Alex Colome...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Q&A with Syracuse coach Benoit Groulx about the Lightning’s next generation

Q&A with Syracuse coach Benoit Groulx about the Lightning’s next generation

DENVER — There might be one team in hockey hotter than the Lightning.It is Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliate, Syracuse.The Crunch had won nine straight heading into Friday’s game against Providence. Why is this important? While the AHL is a developmental lea...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Romano: Some bullies survive beyond the schoolyard

Romano: Some bullies survive beyond the schoolyard

Sometime soon, members of the Florida House will be asked to consider a potential solution for bullying in public schools. It’s a dubious idea based on the premise that students should flee their tormenter, and use voucher funds to attend a private s...
Published: 12/16/17
Highlights of GOP compromise bill to overhaul tax code

Highlights of GOP compromise bill to overhaul tax code

WASHINGTON — Republicans in Congress have blended separate tax bills passed by the House and Senate into compromise legislation that seeks to achieve a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s tax code. GOP leaders are looking toward passage of the final pa...
Updated: 13 minutes ago

High school scoreboard for Dec. 15

Friday’s scoreboardGirls soccerCountryside 7, Clearwater 0Osceola 9, Bradenton Bayshore 0Palm Harbor U. 2, Plant 1Boys soccerPalm Harbor U. 0, Plant 0Lennard 4, Armwood 1
Updated: 12 hours ago

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Fri., Dec. 15, midday:01 563 0000e_SRit95765Fri., Dec. 15, evening:12 287 1492e_SRit04851Fantasy 5Fri., Dec. 15...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Gators play Nebraska, still seeking elusive volleyball title

Gators play Nebraska, still seeking elusive volleyball title

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There is very little these days that can dampen the mood of Florida volleyball coach Mary Wise, whose Gators knocked off reigning national champion Stanford in Thursday’s NCAA semifinals and face Nebraska tonight for the title. Not...
Published: 12/15/17