Wednesday, April 25, 2018
News Roundup

Prosecutor in Jennifer Mee murder trial: 'She set everything up'

LARGO — Jennifer Mee is not the person who aimed a gun at Shannon Griffin and pulled the trigger, but she's still guilty of murder, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

"She set everything up," Assistant State Attorney Christopher LaBruzzo said in his opening.

Mee, then 19, used a social networking site to contact Griffin and offer to sell him marijuana, Labruzzo said. But it was a setup, he said, hatched with two men she lived with.

"There was, in fact, no marijuana to be sold. In fact, instead of marijuana they had a loaded .38-special handgun with six shots in it," LaBruzzo said.

The two men robbed Griffin, struggled over the gun, and "shot him … four times in the chest, and they left him for dead in a dark alleyway" near the 500 block of Seventh Street N in St. Petersburg, he said. Griffin was 22.

Griffin's wallet, keys and other items were later found in an apartment where Mee and three others were briefly living. Mee's fingerprint was found on Griffin's driver's license, LaBruzzo said.

His statement marked the start of the state's case against Mee, who became nationally known for a case of relentless hiccups she suffered at age 15. She was thrust into headlines again four years later after her arrest on a murder charge.

Opening statements didn't start until nearly noon because of a debate about new information concerning Mee's mental health that surfaced this week. At the prosecutors' request, the judge ordered Mee's attorney, John Trevena, not to bring up schizophrenia or Mee's purported low intelligence during his opening statement.

Trevena used his opening to attack the state's case, emphasizing that Mee wasn't even there when the fatal shot was fired.

"She is not at that scene," he said, "but they want you to convict her of murder in the first-degree based on their theory that Ms. Mee was setting up a marijuana deal that somehow went bad."

He also said a condom found at the crime scene that traced back to one of the other defendants, Laron Raiford, raises doubts about the state's version of events. "Who brings a condom to a marijuana deal?" he said.

He also cast suspicion on the only one of Mee's roommates not charged in the murder, Jennifer Charron, without giving details.

The victim's cousin testified for the prosecution Wednesday, providing a glimpse of Griffin's life.

Griffin moved to St. Petersburg from Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina, Douglas Bolden said. He earned his high school equivalency and was proud of his Walmart job. He also took out a loan and bought a scooter to get around.

The night he died, Bolden said, Griffin went out wearing cologne. Bolden was happy to see that, only to later receive a visit from police telling him something terrible had happened.

On cross-examination, Trevena asked if Bolden believed his cousin was using marijuana. He said no. Bolden said Griffin appeared to be "sparkling like a kid who was going on his first date."

Raiford, 23, has been convicted of murder in the case and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Lamont Antonio Newton, 25, is awaiting trial.

Testimony will resume today at 9:15 a.m.

Follow continuing coverage on tampabay.com or @ckruegertimes on Twitter.

 
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