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Video: ‘Hiccup Girl’ on murder: ‘I’m not guilty’

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    >> speaking out in her first interview since being connected with the shooting death of a young florida man. amy robach sat down with her inside the jail. amy, good morning.

    >> reporter: good morning. jennifer was very emotional during her time with us. this is a young girl who over the course of four years has seen her life go from one extreme to the other. in fact, she's coming to terms with what her future may hold -- a lifetime behind bars .

    >> it didn't hit me at first until i was in the back of the cop car with hand cuffs in a paper gown. i'm like, no, this has to be some type of joke.

    >> reporter: jennifer mee is a much different girl today than the shy high school freshman who wound nup the national spotlight in 2007 .

    >> it's not funny, is it?

    >> not no more, not at all.

    >> reporter: it was allel the attention to surrounded her unusual condition she believes sent her down the wrong path.

    >> every time i walked into school, oh, there's the hiccup girl, oh, let's be friends with jennifer . that was overwhelming. people i never thought i would talk to came up and acted like they wanted to be my friend.

    >> you became the "it" girl.

    >> yeah.

    >> what did you do with that fame?

    >> i basically let it all go to my head and just started doing what i wanted to do.

    >> reporter: that's when jennifer said she fell in with the wrong crowd. at 17 she left home and less than two years later.

    >> the allegation is murder in the first-degree.

    >> reporter: she was charged with murder.

    >> i took the path of the devil. i really did. instead of keeping my faith with the lord, i let the devil overcome me.

    >> reporter: police say jennifer met 22-year-old shanon griffin online and led him to a home where her boyfriend la mont and his friend planned to rob griffin at gun point. in the course of the robbery griffin was shot multiple times. do you think about the victim at all?

    >> every day. i do. i think what if that was me behind that barrel? that could have been my life taken. he didn't deserve -- he was very young. he was only a couple years older than i was. i think about it every day. it eats me alive.

    >> reporter: do you feel responsible?

    >> i can't tell you the truth because i -- i didn't do nothing wrong. i'm not guilty of anything.

    >> reporter: in police audio recordings obtained by nbc news jennifer is heard giving two versions of what took place that night. first she says is shooting was part of a love triangle involving the victim, one of the suspects and another woman.

    >> laron , i guess found out he had a type of relationship going on with his girlfriend and laron snapped.

    >> reporter: in another interview that night jennifer breaks down confessing that she lured the victim to the scene so the others could rob him.

    >> he was calling laron 's phone asking where i could meet him.

    >> reporter: jennifer has gone back to the original story saying she was coerced into taking the blame. why implicate yourself in murder?

    >> from -- i just -- i don't know. it's hard. it's hard to explain . i made a mistake. i thought since i was, quote/unquote, famous so young, nothing would happen to me. so i went with a story i thought i wouldn't get in trouble with. but in all reality it put me behind bars . i have been here five months. i could be facing life.

    >> reporter: jennifer 's attorney says the truth will come out in court.

    >> if you really believe her story she's really not guilty of anything except poor judgment in who she associated with.

    >> reporter: what's life like?

    >> really rough. prior to three days ago i was on lockdown 23 hours a day. came out only a half hour each day, able to make a phone call which is only 20 minutes and able to get in the shower. maybe talk a couple minutes to the other female inmates. i don't get to see my family. everything has been really rough. missing my sisters grow up, my mom.

    >> you missed your grandma's funeral?

    >> i did. that broke my heart. i feel like i had a big part of why it happened with her passing away because she was so old -- not old, but stressed. i feel like i had a big toll on why she passed away .

    >> i know this is hard. if you had to -- you have to imagine or at least leave as a possibility that you'll be behind bars and walls for the rest of your life.

    >> i don't want to think like that, but i know -- that is always in the back of my mind. trust me. it is always there. i think about it each and every day. i think, what if i go to prison? what if i go to prison? but i also try to not let that just eat away at my brain, so to speak.

    >> reporter: what do you think's going to happen at trial?

    >> i don't want to think that far ahead. i'm scared. i really am. i'm scared. i want to go home. my sisters are growing up. my mom is missing me. it's hard for me to see my mom and my sisters on a tv screen and have to talk to them through a phone instead of being able to give them hugs and kisses and be home and have dinner with them and say good night.

    >> reporter: for now jennifer won't be going home any time soon. she was denied bond after a hearing that included an emotional plea from the victim's cousin.

    >> he just thought he was going on a date. just a young college-aged kid grinning ear to ear about to go on a date, happy as could be.

    >> reporter: you know griffin's family will be in the court, i'm sure, during the trial. it's very possible that they are watching. i want to give you the opportunity to say something to his family.

    >> i just want to say that i'm sorry for the loss of his cousin. i wish that everything would have been different than how it all proceeded out to be. he didn't deserve it. he didn't. he did not deserve to go. he did not.

    >> reporter: i'm sure you noticed that jennifer did not hiccup at all during our time with her, but her attorney said she's suffering periodic attacks which he attributes to a neurological disorder he will use as part of the defense. all three named defendants remain behind bars . they have pled not guilty. according to jennifer 's attorney it could take up to two years before the case goes oh trial. matt?

    >> amy, thank you very much. rikki cleyman is a criminal defense attorney.

    >> good morning, matt.

    >> what happens when a story changes not once but twice? how does that impact her future?

    >> her future is tenuous in terms of what this lawyer will do with this information. we went basically overnight from an insanity defense which is what we thought it was going to be. i did it, but i have a mental disease that caused me to go along with it and not understand the consequences of my action. by this interview it's gone. that defense is gone.

    >> she said she's completely innocent, did nothing wrong, had no involvement in this crime.

    >> exactly right. we have now what we call a false confession case. we know there are many false confessions that lead to conviction of an innocent person. what is a defense attorney to do? well, a defense attorney would love to polygraph her. she either did lure him there or she didn't. she either was involved or she wasn't. and i suspect --

    >> what's stopping a defense attorney from getting a polygraph for her?

    >> i don't know that i would like to do a polygraph in jail. i would like to get her out.

    >> that doesn't seem likely.

    >> not at all. the second thing is he has to go to the prosecutor with the interview. i think the interview is wise if this false confession will stick and say, wait a minute, you have to reinvestigate the case. start again. it should be easy enough to know who was on the phone, who was on that social networking site , was she there?

    >> yes know turret's syndrome plays into this. she became a celebrity in a weird way because of the medical condition , the hiccupping. she was on this show and said she was ill-equipped to handle all the attention that went with it. it's almost as if she's saying she's a victim of circumstances.

    >> i don't think that plays well. certainly her publicity, attention and her willingness to please other people to get more attention is a circumstance that might help her. but saying it's because i became a public figure because i had these hiccups is going nowhere .

    >> real quickly, she didn't pull the trigger. no one is alleging that but she's charged with first-degree murder in florida. even if she just lured this person to the robbery and the reason is --

    >> it's called felony murder . she is part of the group that knew. they have to prove she knew there would be a robbery, a felle afel felo felony, and the murder took place at that time.

    >> appreciate it. 7:41. let's get

By
TODAY contributor
updated 4/5/2011 8:56:49 AM ET 2011-04-05T12:56:49

In her first interview since being charged with murder, Jennifer Ann Mee, known as the “Hiccup Girl,” spoke out about the possibility of spending life behind bars for her alleged role in a botched robbery that ended in death.

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There isn’t a day that goes by that she doesn’t think about the victim, Mee told NBC’s Amy Robach in an exclusive jailhouse interview Tuesday. “I think, ‘What if that was me behind that barrel?’ ” she said, in tears. “That could have been my life taken. He was very young; he was only a couple years older than I was. I think about it every day, it eats me alive.”

Still, Mee, 19, insists that she is not guilty of murder. “I didn’t do nothing wrong. I’m not guilty of anything,” she said.

According to police, in October 2010, Mee conspired with her boyfriend, Lamont Newton, and his friend Laron Raiford, to rob the victim, Shannon Griffin, 22. Mee met Griffin on a social networking site and, police say, acted as the bait to lure him into a vacant home in St. Petersburg, Fla.

“She knew the plan, she knew they were waiting for him,” Maj. Mike Kovacsev told the St. Petersburg Times soon after her arrest. “She brought him to their waiting arms.”

Mee admits that she told police two different versions of the events. First, she told authorities that Griffin had been romantically involved with Raiford’s girlfriend and that had sparked the violence. “When Laron found out he had some type of relationship with his girlfriend, he snapped,” she told investigators in a tape obtained by NBC News.

But later that night, she told another story, breaking down and confessing that she had lured Griffin to his death.

She has since recanted that confession, and now insists that she has no idea why she admitted to a role in a crime that she says she didn’t commit. “I don’t know. It’s hard. It’s hard to explain,” she tells Robach. “I made a mistake. I thought since I was ‘famous’... young, nothing would happen to me. But in all reality it put me behind bars.”

Four years ago, Mee was a shy high school freshman with a strange malady — she couldn’t stop hiccuping and did so up to 50 times a minute. The chronic condition turned her into a national oddity, and Mee says that the fame she gained from it took a toll on her.

Video: ‘Hiccup Girl’ on murder: ‘I’m not guilty’ (on this page)

After she appeared on TODAY in 2007, she became a celebrity at school. “Every time I walked into school,” she said, school mates would call out, “Oh, there goes the ‘hiccup girl’... ‘Oh, look at Jennifer, let’s be friends with her.’ That was still very overwhelming to me. People that I’d never thought I’d even talk to came up to me and acted like they wanted to be my friend.

“I basically let it all go to my head and just started to do what I wanted to do,” she told Robach.

Soon, Mee admits, she began running with a tough crowd. “I took the path of the devil, I really did. Instead of keeping my faith with the Lord, I let the devil overcome me,” Mee said. By the time she was 17, she had left home. Two years later, she was facing first-degree murder charges.

Her attorney, John Trevena, maintains that Mee suffers from a form of Tourette’s syndrome — which he says accounts for the hiccups that now no longer plague her — and will raise that issue in her defense.

“If you really believe her story, she’s really not guilty of anything except poor judgment of who she associated with,” he said.

Story: Mom: ‘Hiccup Girl’ doesn’t understand her situation

But according to legal analyst and defense attorney Rikki Klieman, Mee may have effectively torpedoed that strategy in her interview with TODAY, when she essentially argued that she had made a false confession.

“Her future is really tenuous,” Klieman told TODAY’s Matt Lauer. “We went overnight from an insanity defense, which is what we thought it was going to be — I did it, but the Tourette’s syndrome is a mental disease that caused me to go along with this and I didn’t understand the consequences of my action — and with this interview, it’s gone. That defense is gone.

“What we have now is a false confession case, and we know that many false confessions lead to the conviction of an innocent person,” Klieman said. “What the defense would love is to polygraph her. She either did lure him there, or she didn’t. She either was involved or she wasn’t.”

But the risks are high. Under Florida felony murder statute, the prosecution doesn’t have to prove that Mee pulled the trigger in order to convict her. All the prosecution has to prove is that she knowingly participated in the robbery that led to the slaying, Klieman told Lauer.

“This defense attorney needs to go this prosecutor with the tape of this interview — I think the interview is wise if this is the defense that’s going to stick, false confession — and say, ‘Wait a minute, you’ve got to reinvestigate this. You have to start again.’ ”

But it could be two years until Mee gets the chance to raise any of that at trial. In the meantime, Mee remains behind bars.

Life in prison has been hard on the girl who once thought of herself as a celebrity. Up until three days ago, she said, she was locked in her cell 23 hours a day. “I only came out a half hour each day, able to make a phone call, which is only 20 minutes, and able to get in the shower, maybe talk a couple minutes to the other female inmates,” she said.

The separation from her family, she said, has been hard. So has the fear that she may spend the rest of her life in prison. “I’m scared,” she said. “I want to go home; I can tell you that. My sisters are growing up, my mom is missing me. It’s hard for me to see my mom and my sisters through a TV screen and talk to them through a phone, instead of being able to give them hugs and kisses and be home and have dinner with them and say goodnight.”

But the hardest thing, she said, was missing her grandmother’s funeral. “That broke my heart,” Mee said, her tears overwhelming her. “I feel like I had a big part of what had happened with her passing away.”

She knows that when she does go to trial, she will have to face the victim’s family, and while she continues to deny that she helped bring about his death, Mee says she has this message for them. “I just want to say that I’m sorry for the loss ... I wish that everything could have been different ... because he didn’t deserve it. He didn’t deserve to go,” she said.

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