LARGO, Fla. - The so-called "Hiccup Girl" has scheduled a media blitz the day before her trial on first degree murder, following a judge's ruling that allows her to do television interviews.
Prosecutor Kendall Davidson said it was 'comical' to think that attorneys for Jennifer Mee were doing anything other than trying to affect the outcome of the trial.
"The effort to do this right at the eve of the trial is clearly an effort to attempt to influence the jury," Davidson said during an emergency hearing Friday.
Mee and two others were charged in the 2010 killing of 22-year old Shannon Griffin during a botched robbery attempt. Griffin was shot to death in a St. Petersburg alley, and the publicity of the case once again vaulted Mee into the national spotlight, three years after she became famous for a bout of uncontrollable hiccups that lasted for weeks.
Mee's defense attorney, John Trevena, said his client deserved a chance to tell her story on television because of negative connotations portrayed by the State Attorney's Office and the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. Both agencies denied the accusations, and said Trevena was looking to influence the jury pool just days before the selection process.
"She needs to put herself in a good light to the jury, but she doesn't need to put herself in a good light to the United States of America on this particular week," Davidson said.
Scott Ponce, a media attorney representing NBC/Universal, said there was no legal reason to place a gag order on Mee, because choosing an impartial jury could still be accomplished whether or not potential jurors watched any interviews.
"It's someone who would sit there and say not only have I seen it, but I can't be impartial," Ponce said, arguing that other high profile cases, including George Zimmerman's murder trial, successfully sat juries despite heavy pre-trial publicity.
Judge Nancy Moate Ley agreed, ruling that the state failed to meet the burden of proof that the jury pool would be tainted.
"The state's motion is denied," Ley said.
The judge also denied a request by Treveno to allow the syndicated TV program "Dr. Phil" to record interviews with Mee during breaks in the trial proceedings.
"I'm old-fashioned," Judge Ley said of her court rules, noting that she traditionally is very strict about media coverage.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin Tuesday morning at 8:30.
Chris Trenkmann can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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