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Juror removed in murder trial for researching 'Hiccup Girl'

LARGO — An Internet search of the "Hiccup Girl" got a Pinellas County juror removed from a murder trial on Wednesday before openings in the case even began.

"I have never had a juror so obviously ignore court orders," Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Nancy Moate Ley said Wednesday after the juror's admission.

"This is not a game, this is not a joke," she told juror Tateyana Calhoun before removing her at the request of defense attorney Edward Liebling.

After an alternate juror was put in her place, prosecutors began their case against Laron Cordale Raiford, 23. He is one of three people accused of plotting in October 2010 to lure 22-year-old Shannon Griffin to a house in the 500 block of Seventh Street N in St. Petersburg to rob him.

The other two accused are the "Hiccup Girl" Jennifer Mee, 22, and Lamont Antonio Newton, 25, who will be tried later. All three are charged with first-degree murder. Mee had previously gained Internet notoriety because of media coverage of her case of intractable hiccups that persisted for months and months.

Assistant State Attorney Christopher LaBruzzo told jurors Wednesday that Raiford assisted in a plot to lure Griffin to the home to sell him marijuana. But instead, LaBruzzo said, Griffin was shot four times in the chest and left for dead.

"Mr. Griffin breathed his last breath of air in an abandoned alleyway," the prosecutor said.

A handgun was found at the scene, he said, with DNA that traced back to Raiford.

LaBruzzo noted that Florida law allows a person to be convicted of murder if he was participating in a felony crime when it occurred, even if he did not start out with a plan to kill.

When jurors were selected for Raiford's trial earlier this week, Judge Ley instructed them not to read news media coverage or other information about the case, common instructions because jurors are supposed to make decisions based purely on evidence presented in court.

In this case, the juror said she didn't remember much about the case so she googled "Hiccup Girl" on Tuesday night.

Apparently realizing herself that she had broken the rules, she mentioned her research to a courtroom deputy Wednesday morning. The deputy told the judge, who brought the juror in to question.

Ley hinted there may be consequences to come. She ordered a transcript of all the juror's statements and told Calhoun, "I expect we will be seeing you after this trial is completed."

Outside of the courthouse, Calhoun told a reporter: "I made a big mistake."

Juror removed in murder trial for researching 'Hiccup Girl' 08/28/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 6:49pm]

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