A state agency will pay the cost to transcribe Dalia Dippolito’s second trial to help her attorneys to prepare for her third trial this summer, a judge has ruled.
Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley at the end of a short hearing Thursday granted defense attorney Greg Rosenfeld’s request to have the state pay for what he estimates will be at least $10,000 in transcription costs to receive a written play-by-play of the December retrial that ended in mistrial.
Dippolito is now on house arrest as she awaits a third trial in the case where she was caught on camera allegedly hiring a hitman to kill her husband, Michael, in 2009.
The “hitman” turned out to be a Boynton Beach police detective who was part of an investigation that began when Dippolito’s then-lover, Mohamed Shihadeh, told authorities that Dippolito was shopping for a killer.
Rosenfeld, who last month revealed he is representing Dippolito free of charge, and California defense attorney Brian Claypool had previously won a request to have Dippolito declared indigent for the purposes of costs and fees associated with her defense. Dippolito has not been able to work since her 2009 arrest, her lawyers say, because she’s been on house arrest for most of that time.
Dippolito was jailed briefly after a first jury in her case convicted her in 2011. A judge back then sentenced to her to 20 years sin prison, but she was released on an appellate bond shortly afterwards as her lawyers fought to get her a new trial.
They won that quest when an appellate court threw out both the conviction and sentence in 2014, clearing the way for December’s trial.
That trial ended in mistrial after jurors announced they were split 3-3 over whether or not Dippolito was guilty.
Kelley set the start of jury selection for Dippolito’s third trial for June 2.
Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley issued an order Thursday setting Dippolito’s retrial for June 2.
The notice comes more than a month after Kelley declared a mistrial in Dippolito’s second trial after group of six jurors announced they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict in the 2009 Boynton Beach case.
A first jury in Dippolito’s case in 2011 convicted her on a single charge of solicitation to commit first degree murder, and she was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but both her conviction and sentence were overturned on appeal.
Dippolito’s attorneys have argued that police violated Dippolito’s rights by forcing her lover turned police informant to participate in the investigation after he allegedly said he wanted out. They say police officials did so to spice up an episode of the reality television show “Cops.”
Prosecutors say the video evidence in the case, including conversations between Dippoilto and an undercover detective posing as a hitman, provide clear evidence that she fully intended to have her now ex-husband killed.
Lawyers for Dalia Dippolito won’t be asking for a change of venue after all for what will be her third trial on charges that she tried to have her husband killed, but prosecutors will.
In a news release issued Tuesday, defense attorney Brian Claypool said the number of calls, emails and letters they’ve received from people in the community after Dippolito’s trial ended in a hung jury last month has encouraged them to abandon efforts they began in December to move the trial out of town.
“Judge [Glenn] Kelley did an exceptional job of vetting potentially biased jurors in the last trial to ensure that Ms.
Dippolito had the case heard before an unbiased cross section of Palm Beach County jurors,” Claypool said, adding that he and fellow defense attorney Greg Rosenfeld believe Kelley will do the same in a third trial expected to begin this spring. “Ms. Dippolito has faith in the people of Palm Beach County.”
Since that news release, according to Claypool, Assistant State Attorney Craig Williams sent an email to the judge saying that prosecutors themselves will be seeking to pick a jury from outside Palm Beach County. Claypool characterized the move as “ironic,” considering Williams and Assistant State Attorney Laura Burkhart Laurie fought to keep the case local before the second trial.
Reached by phone, Claypool Tuesday afternoon said prosecutors of “forum shopping” in hopes that jurors from cities like Jacksonville, Tampa and Orlando will be more conservative than the prospective jury pool that included three panelists who ultimately accepted Dippolito’s police corruption defense.
“We did get a fair jury trial in Palm Beach County and guess what? They got hammered,” Claypool said of the prosecution. “This case should be over and done.”
Palm Beach State Attorney spokesman Mike Edmondson did not immediately return a call for comment Tuesday, but in the past he has said declined to comment on discussions among the attorneys in the case – including a phone conference last week where lawyers in the case failed to reach a plea agreement for Dippolito.
After those talks fell flat, Rosenfeld publicly criticized Palm Beach State Attorney Dave Aronberg for not personally participating in the plea negotiations and accused him of continuing the prosecution for political reasons.
Dippolito, 34, was arrested in October 2009 at the end of a Boynton Beach Police investigation where she was caught on camera hiring an undercover officer posing as a hitman to kill Michael Dippolito, who at the time was her husband of six months.
The Dippolitos divorced in 2011, shortly after Dalia Dippolito’s first trial ended with a conviction on murder solicitation charge. Chief Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath called her “pure evil” that year when he sentenced her to 20 years in prison, but by 2014 and appellate court had thrown out both her conviction and sentence.
Claypool and Rosenfeld during her second trial in December depicted Dippolito as a victim of corrupt Boynton Beach police officers who pressured her lover into making her carry out the plot to make for a good episode of the television show “Cops.”
After a day of deliberations in the second trial, jurors told Kelley they could not reach a unanimous verdict. A later poll revealed the six panelist were evenly split 3-3 on whether or not Dippolito was guilty.
Two alternate jurors also told local media outlets that they would have voted to acquit Dippolito.
Though the minimum recommended sentence for Dippolito if convicted is four years in prison, defense attorneys say plea offers in the case have not fallen below double digits. If a jury in Dippolito’s third trial convicts her, she faces a likely 20-year prison sentence.
Kelley last week denied a request from Dippolito to get off house arrest as she awaits her third trial, which could begin as early as this spring.
The judge said he will, however, consider relaxing some of the house arrest conditions. Claypool in December announced that Dippolito has given birth in the past year to a baby boy.
UPDATE 6:12 p.m.: Jurors announced late Tuesday that they are unable to reach a unanimous verdict after more than six hours of deliberation in Dalia Dippolito’s murder solicitation retrial.
Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley sent the panel home for the night under objection from Dippolito’s defense team, who had wanted them to continue trying to reach a verdict Tuesday night.
Instead, the jury will return Wednesday, and if the tell the judge again that they are at an impasse, he will read to them a special instruction to keep deliberating.
If that doesn’t work, then Kelley on Wednesday could declare a mistrial in the case surrounding the former Boynton Beach newlywed’s caught on camera alleged plot to kill her husband in 2009.
Dippolito defense attorney Brian Claypool said the case isn’t over yet.
“It’s not a hung jury,” Claypool said. “We‘ve said it, we were never here for a consolation prize, we want a not guilty verdict.”
UPDATE 5:20 p.m.: Jurors in Dalia Dippolito’s murder solicitation retrial are now in a sixth hour of deliberation after asking to review all audio and video recordings connected to the alleged 2009 plot.
Five years ago, it took jurors just three hours to convict the 34-year-old of unwittingly hiring an undercover Boynton Beach Police officer posing as a hitman to kill her husband, Michael.
In this trial, prosecutors presented a much shorter case and relied almost exclusively on the series of recordings where Dippolito is overheard trying to arrange the murder.
And Dippolito’s new legal team was much more aggressive with arguments that she was the victim of a botched, unethical Boynton Beach Police investigation that violated her civil rights. She also completely abandoned a previous defense that she and her husband concocted the plot together in hopes of landing a reality television show.
At about 2 pm Tuesday, the jury of four women ant two men asked to review audio and video recordings in the case. They also asked to hear part of Assistant State Attorney Laura Burkhart Laurie closing arguments, but Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley told them that closing arguments were not evidence and declined their request.
The jury also asked to get a transcript of Dippolito lover Mohamed Shihadeh’s testimony. Kelley told them he could provide no transcripts but would have his testimony read back to them in open court if they wanted. So far the jury has not taken him up on the offer.
ORIGINAL POST: Jurors in Dalia Dippolito’s murder solicitation retrial are now beginning the task of deciding the case surrounding the 2009 alleged plot to kill the Boynton Beach newlywed’s husband.
Closing arguments began Monday in the trial that started last week, and ended Tuesday morning with rebuttal arguments from Assistant State Attorney Laura Burkhart Laurie.
Laurie, countering arguments from Dippolito’s defense team that Boynton Beach Police violated Dippolito’s civil rights to build the investigation for an episode of “Cops,” said the police weren’t the ones on trial and Dippolito made it clear she wanted her husband Michael dead.
“Remember her words, when she says she’s going to do something, she does it,” Laurie said. “And she did. She’s guilty.”
Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley dismissed the two alternates and sent the six jurors back to begin deciding the case just before 11 a.m.
UPDATE 3:18 p.m.: Testimony ended in the retrial of Dalia Dippolito Monday afternoon, shortly after jurors got to see footage of her at what turned out to be a staged crime scene police created in before arresting her for allegedly trying to have her husband killed.
Prosecutors asked Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley to show it to jurors after Dippolito defense attorney Brian Claypool made reference to it several times while questioning Boynton Beach Police Public Information Officer Stephanie Slater.
Closing arguments in Dippolito’s case are expected to begin shortly.
UPDATE 11:45 a.m.: Dalia Dippoito has decided not to testify in her retrial on 2009 charges that she tried to have a hitman kill her husband.
Dippolito, 34, told Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley of her decision after a defense expert testified.
She had said earlier this year that she looked forward to testifying, but her attorneys before the trial hinted at the change in plans.
Kelley afterwards granted prosecutors’ request to show a staged crime scene video in the case.
ORIGINAL POST: Boynton Beach police officials should have never told Dalia Dippolito’s former lover that he would remain anonymous when he reporter she was trying to have her husband killed.
This was the testimony of Timothy Williams, Jr. a Los-Angeles-based police practices expert that could be the last defense witness in the retrial of the 34-year-old former newlywed charged in an August 2009 caught on camera alleged plot to have her husband killed.
The question still remains whether Dippolito will testify in her own defense, although so far it appears unlikely.
Dippolito told reporters earlier this year that she would take the stand and tell jurors that her husband, Michael, and her lover, Mohamed Shihadeh, conspired together to force her to pretend she wanted Michael Dippolito dead as art of an acting showcase.
But defense attorneys since before the start of the trial last week appeared to have cooled on the idea, saying Friday that they would confer with Dippolito over the weekend and announce their decision Monday.
On Saturday, lead defense attorney Brian Claypool tweeted that he expected to deliver his closing arguments Monday – an indication that Dippolito may have decided against taking the stand.
Assistant State Attorneys Craig Williams and Laura Burkhart Laurie have based their case on Dippolito’s own words in a series of audio and video recordings with her lover and the fake hitman, who she told she was “5,000 percent sure” she wanted her husband dead.
Claypool, along with defense attorneys Greg Rosenfeld and Andrew Greenlee, have called those recordings “fruit of a poisonous tree,” saying that they were made after Shihadeh told police he wanted out of the investigation and they forced him to cooperate.
UPDATE 3:15 p.m.: Dalia Dippolito broke down in tears Thursday as her former lover took the and said he told Boynton Beach police she was looking to have her husband killed in hopes of getting her some help.
Mohamed Shihadeh, who had a sexual relationship with Dippolito from years before she met and married her now ex-husband Michael, said he thought his old lover was being abused and went to police in hopes that they would call her.
“I didn’t think she had it in her to do it,” Shihadeh said when asked whether he thought Dippolito would actually have her husband killed.
Hearing those words in the courtroom Thursday sent Dippolito, 34, into sobs. She continued crying for several minutes as defense attorney Brian Claypool continued questioning Shihadeh, who said police surreptitiously placed a video camera in his car and tapped his phones.
2:40 p.m. UPDATE: After calling just two witnesses, prosecutors Thursday rested their murder solicitation case against Dalia Dippolito.
The surprise move came after less than a full day of testimony in what had become one of the most highly publicized local cases in recent history.
From the start of the case Wednesday, Assistant State Attorney Craig Williams and fellow prosecutor Laura Burkhart Laurie presented a significantly pared-back version of the case the state presented to Dippolito’s first trial in 2011.
They based their case solely on a series of audio and video recordings in which Dippolito is overheard planning her husband’s murder with Mohamed Shihadeh and later undercover Boynton Beach Officer Widy Jean.
Dippolito defense attorneys Brian Claypool and Greg Rosenfeld will call Mohamed Shihadeh as their first witness.
12:50 p.m. UPDATE: Prosecutors could rest their case in the murder solicitation retrial against Dalia Dippolito as early as Thursday afternoon.
Assistant State Attorney Craig Williams made the bombshell announcement after Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley sent jurors out for the lunch break.
Dippolito’s retrial began Wednesday with an immediately apparent stripped-down version of the case against the 34-year-old former Boynton Beach newlywed whose alleged plot to kill her husband was caught on camera.
The quick end to the state’s case means prosecutors will likely not call the alleged victim, Michael Dippolito, to the witness stand. Dippolito’s former lover, Mohamed Shihadeh, was also expected to be a state witness, but according to the prosecutors’ announcement, it appears they may not be calling him to the stand, either.
ORIGINAL POST: In the parking lot of the CVS on Gateway Boulevard and Military trial, a young woman stepped out of her gold Chevy Tahoe and into the passenger seat of a red Chrysler Sebring.
“At first she was moving around, but after a while he was calm and collected and giving me the instructions that I needed,” Jean, an undercover police officer who posed as a hitman, told jurors in Dalia Dippolito’s retrial Thursday.
Dippolito, 34, listened as the jurors watched the recorded video on what will be the first full day of testimony in the case. On Monday, jurors heard audio and video recordings of Dippolito’s interactions with Mohamed Shihadeh, the sometime lover who sparked a Boynton Beach Police investigation when he told detectives Dippolito was shopping for someone to kill her new husband, Michael.
In the recording with Jean Thursday, it was clear that he was trying to keep her talking, an indulgence she obliged.
She told him Michael Dippolito had enough enemies to keep police guessing as to who would want to kill him.
Played seven years later, Jean in the video might’ve given some clues that he wasn’t a real hitman.
At one point, after she told him to check with her on a detail, he responded: “I’m not going to do anything without your approval. You’re the client.”
Towards the end on the conversation, Jean – who was supposed to be a hardened hired gun from Miami – offered up a police “anything further?” before Dippolito left.
“I was trying to give her a way out,” he said. “In return she told me she was 5,000 percent sure that she wanted it done.”
4:08 p.m. UPDATE : Dalia Dippolito thought getting her hair done would make for a good alibi spot to be in when a hitman killed her husband.
Her words, played in a videotaped conversation between her and her lover-turned police informant Mohamed Shihadeh, dominated a slow first day of testimony in the 34-year-old former Boynton Beach newlywed’s retrial in the alleged 2009 plot to kill her then-husband, Michael.
In a handful of video and audio recordings so far, Dippolito appeared to project a cool, calm demeanor as she discussed with her sometime lover the logistics of hiring a man she thought was a hitman acquaintance of one of Mohamed’s relatives.
She did, however, express concern over the fact that some of their conversations were over the phone, wanted to make sure the hitman would carry out the act and was worried he might take her money and not follow through.
“Nobody’s going to be able to point a finger back at me,” Dippolito is overheard telling Shihadeh in one video.
Prosecutors told jurors today that what Dippolito didn’t know is that it was already too late. Boynton Beach police were already listening in on their conversations, and the alleged hitman was actually an undercover detective.
Dippolito this year said she knew all about the investigation, but her husband and Shihadeh coerced her to act along in hopes that it would score all three of them Hollywood fame.
But defense attorney Brian Claypool in his opening statements to jurors in the trial this morning appears to have abandoned that defense except for a reference to the plot being “all fake” and “part of a script.”
The real actors, Claypool said, were Boynton Beach police officials who violated Dippolito’s rights to unlawfully get her to continue the murder try to make for a good episode of the television show “Cops.”
In the recorded conversations played for jurors Wednesday, Dippolito repeatedly asks Shihadeh if the informant she is set to meet will make good on his promise to kill Michael Dippolito for $3,000.
“Are you sure sure?” Dippolito asked.
“How sure do you want? You’re planning a murder, c’mon!” an exasperated-sounding Shihadeh responded.
Jurors heard the recordings while the state’s first witness, Boynton Beach Police Detective Alex Moreno, was on the witness stand.
11:15 a.m. UPDATE : For Assistant State Attorney Craig Williams, the case against former Boynton Beach newlywed Dalia Dippolito is simple.
Williams told jurors in opening statements for Dippolito’s retrial Wednesday that the 34-year-old simply tried to pay a hitman $3,000 to kill her husband. And she got caught.
“What’s great about this case is that it is based 100 percent on Ms Dippoito’s words, Ms Dippolito’s actions and Ms Dippolito’s intent,” Williams said.
Defense attorney Brian Claypool, well into his opening statements, has yet to mention Dippolito’s claims from last year that her husband, Michael Dippolito, and her lover, Mohamed Shihadeh, forced her to meet with the undercover detective because they thought the recorded exchanges would land them all acting jobs.
Instead, he’s said Boynton Beach Police forced Shihadeh to set Dippoito up even after he said he wanted out.
What’s more, Claypool said, police either failed to record or lost or destroyed recordings from more than 100 phone calls between Shihadeh and Dippolito over the course of the investigation.
“Maybe she wanted to rethink things, maybe she had issues with her husband that she needed to work out. But will you get to hear about that? No,” Claypool said.
The truth, Claypool said, was that Dippolito wanted out of the alleged plot.
ORIGINAL POST: Arguments over a request to keep recorded evidence from jurors marked the start Wednesday of Dalia Dippolito’s second trial in the August 2009 Boynton Beach case surrounding her alleged plot to have her then-husband Michael killed.
Dippolito’s defense attorneys tried unsuccessfully to keep out portions of Dippolito’s caught-on-camera plot involving a police officer posing as a hitman.
Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley has also put off a defense request for a mistrial.
Michael Dippolito divorced Dalia Dippolito after a first jury in 2011 convicted her of solicitation of first-degree murder charges. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but that sentence was overturned on appeal.
At Dippolito’s last trial, her now-former husband was the star witness against her and described how a Boynton Beach police officer’s knock on the door in August 2009 was his first clue that the woman he’d married just a month earlier was trying to have him killed.
A point of contention in the case will likely be how much of the alleged plot was Dippolito’s own doing and how much of it was contrived by the Boynton Beach Police Department to make for a good episode of the television show “Cops.”
Dippolito’s defense team tried several times unsuccessfully to get the case thrown out altogether because of claims that Boynton police violated her rights in the way they conducted the investigation.
Dippolito has also claimed that her husband and Mohamed Shihadeh, her lover-turned-police-informant, concocted the murder-for-hire-plot together as part of an acting script and forced her to go through with it.
A point of contention in the case will be Dippolito’s attorneys’ attempts to claim that police failed to record hundreds of calls between Dippolito and Shihadeh before and after he introduced her to the fake hitman.
Dippolito’s attonreys say there were more than 500 such calls, but prosecutors say the number is closer to two dozen and the calls in question were brief.
UPDATE 4:58 p.m.: A group of five women and three men will make up the pool of six jurors and two alternates in the retrial of former Boynton Beach newlywed Dalia Dippolito, who is accused of a 2009 caught-on-camera plot to have her husband killed.
Dippolito’s defense attorneys immediately indicated that they will request to have the jurors sequestered. The selection of jurors ends four days of jury selection rocked by Dippolito’s last-minute attempts to drop the entire pool of 200 prospective jurors sand move the case out of Palm Beach COunty.
Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley denied the request to sequester the jury and said he will assk them every day whether they’ve been exposed to media attention in the case.
“I’ll stay on top of it,” Kelley said.
Opening statements in the trial will begin Wednesday.
UPDATE 1:54 p.m.: Concerns over the husband of a potential Dalia Dippolito juror temporarily halted jury selection in her retrial amid claims the man was stalking Dippolito.
Dippolito, 34, said she recognized the man from her 2011 sentencing hearing and other hearings in her case.
Concerns first rose Monday, when defense attorneys Greg Rosenfeld and Brian Claypool said the then-unidentified man was seen having lunch with a juror last week.
It turns out that juror, who was also accused of making a derrogatory comment about Dippolito to two other prospective jurors, is the wife of the court watcher.
Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley brought the man in for questioning. He said he watched the news and heard about Dippolito’s case, but denied telling his wife anything about it.
“I’d get shot if I did,” he said. “She’s a tough little lady.”
ORIGINAL POST: The presiding judge in Dalia Dippolito’s retrial has again rejected her request to move her case out of Palm Beach County because of widespread publicity of the case.
Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley announced his decision Tuesday in what developed into a heated exchange between the judge and defense attorneys in the case.
Responding to claims from defense attorneys Brian Claypool and Greg Rosenfeld that a television news poll revealed most viewers thought Dippolito couldn’t get a fair jury in Palm Beach County, Kelley said he didn’t need to see it.
“I’m not going to rely on the poll, and quite frankly, I don’t care what the citizens of Palm Beach County think because I’m the one who is sitting in the chair,” Kelley said.
His words come a day after rising concerns about the number of jurors who knew about Dippolito’s alleged murder-for-hire plot led defense attorneys to renew their efforts to get the case moved.
Kelley had said he would consider the request overnight, and announced his decision to keep questioning the 55 prospective jurors early Tuesday.
Claypool, comparing Dippolito’s case to the two DUI manslaughter trials of Wellington polo mogul John Goodman, questioned Kelley’s decision to keep the case local, considering Goodman’s second jury came from Tampa.
“We’ve done our due diligence. I think the court is ignoring that, because the court is in a rush to get a jury in Palm Beach County,” Claypool said.
“I am considering the volume of publicity, and you need to lower your volume,” Kelley said in response. “Passion is fine, but you need to lower your volume.”
After the exchange, jury selection continued with the 50 remaining jurors from an initial prospective pool of 200.
Claypool, in questioning the jurors Tuesday morning, appeared to preview Dippolito’s defense that Boynton Beach Police violated Dippolito’s civil rights in the way they handled the investigation into Dippolito’s alleged attempt to have her then-husband Michael killed.
The investigation began when Dippolito’s lover, Mohamed Shihedeh, told police Dippolito was looking for a hitman. He would later say that he hoped to get help for Dippolito, who had told him her husband was abusing her.
Shihadeh said police coerced him to continue setting Dippolito up for the caught-on-camera investigation with an undercover officer posing as a hitman even after he asked to back out.
Dippolito herself said in court earlier this year that Shihadeh and her husband had made up the plot as part of an acting showcase to get them all jobs, and both of them forced her to continue with it after she tried to back out of the plot.
More than three quarters of a pool of 96 prospective jurors for Dalia Dippolito’s retrial have already heard about her caught-on-camera alleged murder for hire plot.
The dozens of hands that went up Friday when Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley asked who heard about the case will undoubtedly bolster a last-minute request from the former Boynton Beach newlywed’s defense team to pick jurors from outside Palm Beach County.
The request, which Kelley has yet to decide, comes on the second day of jury selection in what has become Palm Beach County’s most widely publicized recent case aside from the two DUI manslaughter trials of former Wellington polo club founder John Goodman.
In Dippolito’s case, about half of a pool of 100 initial jurors questioned Thursday had already heard about the case.
Defense attorney Brian Claypool after court appeared untroubled by those numbers. But Friday morning, he said that after having a chance to sleep on it and talk to Dippolito, he was now concerned and wanted to move the case out of Palm Beach County.
Those fears shave culminated so far with a request for a change of venue before jurors were brought in this morning, and a more recent request from defense attorney Greg Rosenfeld to throw out the entire panel after hearing how many had heard of the case.
Kelley has rebuffed both requests so far, but after his last denial, he commented on the number of prospective jurors who had hear about the case.
“I’ll comment parenthetically that it’s disconcerting, but…” Kelley said with a slight shrug, his voice training off.
On Thursday, most jurors who had heard about the case were dismissed after Kelley questioned them individually and learned they had heard information both the judge and attorneys on both sides have agreed should be kept from jurors.
That includes the fact that Dippolito was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison before the case was overturned on appeal, that Dippolito was working as an escort when she met her now ex-husband Michael and that the 2009 Boynton Beach case was featured on an episode of the television show COPS.
Dippolito, 34, is charged with asking an undercover police officer posing as a hitman to kill her then-husband in 2009.
Dippolito’s 2011 conviction and 20-year prison sentence in the case was overturned on appeal because Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeal ruled that Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath should have questioned jurors individually instead of as a group about what they knew about the case.
A prospective juror in Dalia Dippolito’s murder solicitation trial told a judge Thursday that he had a conversation with his wife after they watched a news report on the case years ago.
After hearing that Dippolito was caught on camera asking an undercover officer posing as a hitman to kill her then-husband in 2009, the man said he turned to his wife with a warning.
“I told my wife ‘be careful who you hire,’ She said ‘Don’t worry, I’d do it myself,” she said.
Dippolito, 34, smiled as both prosecutors and her defense team shares smiles and chuckles of their own, marking a brief light moment on what was the first day of jury selection in the retrial for the escort-turned-newlywed who says her caught on camera murder plot was part of an acting script.
Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley, who had hoped to finish electing a jury by Friday, quickly scrapped those plans when more than half of a pool of 100 prospective jurors said they’d already heard about Dippolito’s case.
Kelley questioned jurors who had heard about the case one by one, a process that took the rest of the day. Another 100 prospective jurors, which were originally scheduled for initial questioning Thursday afternoon, will instead come back Friday.
Questioning each juror individually about their prior knowledge of the case is important because Dippolito’s 2011 conviction and 20-year prison sentence in the case was overturned on appeal because Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeal ruled that Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath should have questioned jurors individually instead of as a group about what they knew about the case.
Less than a quarter of the initial pool of 100 jurors made it immediately through the first round of questioning after telling Kelley they hadn’t heard about the case and had no hardship that would keep them from serving as jurors for the week-long trial.
Less than a dozen more were asked to return Monday after individual questioning.
Most who had heard about the case before Thursday, however, were dismissed – including those who knew there had been a previous trial and heard certain details about the case that attorneys and the judge agreed would be kept from jurors.
A handful had heard Dippolito, 34, was working as an escort when she met Michael Dippolito, who subsequently divorced his wife and married her months later.
Others had seen the viral video of Dippolito crying fake tears at what was later revealed as a staged crime scene where police officers led her to believe her plot had been successful and her husband was dead.
A tense moment in the day’s jury selection came when a prospective juror informed a court deputy that he could hear the individual jurors being questioned inside the courtroom from a live feed to a nearby conference room set up for television reporters covering the case.
After hearing the door to the room had been left open for at least part of the day, Dippolito attorneys Brian Claypool and Greg Rosenfeld asked Kelley to strike the entire jury panel.
“There’s no way to tell how deep this goes,’ Rosenfeld said.
Kelley opted to question jurors about it individually, and appeared set to move forward after the juror who reported the incident and other prospective jurors all said they could only hear voices but no specific conversations between the judge and individual jurors.
Jury selection will continue Friday and is expected to wrap Monday. The trial could begin as early as Tuesday.