LARGO — Some jurors cried as the verdict was read, but all 12 agreed on one thing Friday: Jennifer Mee, once known as the "Hiccup Girl," is guilty of first-degree murder.
Mee, 22, burst into anguished tears herself as Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Nancy Moate Ley gave her the only possible legal sentence: life in prison with no possibility of parole.
"It's a victory, but there are no winners," said Doug Bolden, cousin of the victim, Shannon Griffin. After waiting nearly three years, he said it felt "surreal" to hear the verdict.
Mee's mother, Rachel Robidoux, who attended virtually the whole trial, had no comment afterward.
Jurors spent about four hours deliberating.
Mee's notoriety began at age 15 when she had a case of hiccups that lasted weeks. In 2010, she was arrested along with two roommates and accused of murdering Griffin, 22, in St. Petersburg.
During more than an hour of closing arguments Friday, prosecutors Jan Olney and Christopher LaBruzzo circled back to the same phrase: She set it all up.
Mee herself said those words, when she had first gotten arrested and called her mother from the Pinellas County Jail. In the recorded call, she explained why she had been charged with murder even though she did not fire the shots that killed Griffin.
"Because I set everything up," Mee explained, close to crying. "It all went wrong, Mom. It just went downhill."
In fact, LaBruzzo began his closing by playing the recording for the jurors again. Mee's words were so powerful that prosecutor Olney said "Our star witness is Jennifer Mee."
Prosecutors did not claim Mee set out to kill someone. In fact, LaBruzzo said, "I'm sure she didn't intend for there to be murder in this case."
But under Florida law, if someone participates in a robbery and someone is killed as a result, they are just as guilty of murder as if they pulled a trigger.
After Griffin was killed and the three roommates arrested, police found his wallet, work ID and other items in an apartment where Mee and the others had gone to stay. Mee's fingerprint was found on Griffin's driver's license.
Defense attorney John Trevena said prosecutors were misinterpreting the words of "a frightened young girl."
Trevena said, "I don't think there was ever any plan or any intent to murder Shannon Griffin." And he asked:
"What is it that she set up?"
In her first interview with police, she claimed her roommate Laron Raiford killed Griffin because he thought there was a love triangle involving his girlfriend and Griffin.
Trevena said this account was backed up by other evidence: a condom wrapper with Raiford's DNA was found at the scene. Griffin's pants were pulled down. Before going out, Griffin had told a relative he was going out on a date, and put on cologne.
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Prosecutor LaBruzzo said the condom wrapper could have been present because Raiford had a previous encounter there.
Trevena said his client wasn't the type who could orchestrate such a plan, saying, "We're not dealing with . . . a mastermind here."
But Olney said prosecutors never called Mee a mastermind. "Jennifer Mee participated and she participated in this fashion. . . . She was the bait that lured Shannon Griffin to a back alley that was dark where two of her cohorts waited."
She added: "And that is why Shannon Griffin is not with us any longer."
Earlier Friday, the jury heard from defense witness Jennifer Charron. She used to live with Mee and two other men, Raiford and Lamont Antonio Newton.
Of those four roommates, Charron is the only one not charged with murdering Griffin.
She also is the only one who could testify in this week's trial with what she said was firsthand knowledge of the events just before and just after the murder.
Charron said she had been working during the day and when she returned home, the four of them were planning to see the movie Paranormal Activity. But first, the others said they were going out to get some money. They eventually left.
Mee was the first to come back, out of breath, panicked, saying she had heard gunshots. Then Raiford came back to the apartment, distraught, looking like he had been in a fight, saying the other man — Newton — had been shot.
But he wasn't right. In a minute, Newton came back. He said someone else had been shot — the victim, Griffin.
Authorities said Mee lured Griffin to a spot in the 500 block of Seventh Street N ostensibly to sell him marijuana but really as part of a plan with Raiford and Newton to rob him.
Raiford has been convicted of murder in the case and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Newton is awaiting trial.
Curtis Krueger can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8232.