Jury selection begins in Dalia Dippolito murder-for-hire retrial

Boynton Beach woman accused of hiring undercover police officer to kill husband

By Peter Burke - Local10.com Managing Editor
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Dalia Dippolito sits in court Thursday during jury selection in her murder-for-hire retrial.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Jury selection began Thursday in the retrial of a Boynton Beach woman accused of hiring an undercover police officer to kill her husband.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys are expected to interview a pool of 200 prospective jurors during the jury selection in the Dalia Dippolito retrial.

Dippolito is accused of paying an undercover police officer, who was posing as a hit man, to kill her husband. The Boynton Beach Police Department staged a crime scene and recorded her reaction on the day her husband was supposed to be killed.

The 34-year-old woman was convicted of solicitation to commit first-degree murder in 2011 and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. However, the Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed the conviction in 2014.

In its opinion, the appellate court deemed that the trial court erred by denying a request to individually question prospective jurors about their exposure to pretrial publicity about Dippolito and denying a request to strike the entire jury pool after all the jurors heard an allegation that Dippolito had attempted to poison her husband.

After much legal wrangling that included an attempt by the prosecution to revoke Dippolito's bond and Miami defense attorney Mark Eiglarsh dropping out, the long-delayed retrial is expected to last a week. Palm Beach County Judge Glenn Kelley said he expects jury selection to last two days, with testimony to begin Monday.

Dippolito never testified during her first trial, but she said in a hearing earlier this year that she was acting for a television show and wasn't really plotting a murder for hire.

A video recorded by the Boynton Beach Police Department shows Dippolito crying at the staged crime scene on the day of her August 2009 arrest. Another video shows Dippolito giving money to the undercover officer, telling him that she was "5,000 percent sure" she wanted her then-husband dead.

Dippolito's former attorney, Michael Salnick, argued during her first trial that she thought she was being recorded as part of a hoax to get her husband on a reality television show.

The current defense team claims the Boynton Beach Police Department violated Dippolito's constitutional rights by setting her up with the help of former lover Mohamed Shihadeh, who became a confidential informant for police. Defense attorneys Brian Claypool and Greg Rosenfeld will argue that police staged the phony crime and invited the TV show "Cops" there to gain publicity.

Claypool said Thursday on Twitter that he was "looking forward to holding law enforcement accountable for breaking the rules" and using Dippolito "as a pawn to manufacture good television."

Dippolito has been out of jail on a $25,000 bond while awaiting retrial.

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