Appellate court upholds Dalia Dippolito conviction
Boynton Beach woman hired undercover cop posing as detective to kill her husband
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – A Boynton Beach woman who hired an undercover police officer posing as a hitman to kill her husband will be staying in prison.
The Fourth District Court of Appeal on Wednesday upheld the 2017 conviction of Dalia Dippolito. It was her third murder-for-hire trial.
Dippolito, 36, was found guilty of solicitation to commit first-degree murder and sentenced to 16 years in prison.
Her attorneys appealed the decision last year, arguing that Dippolito was the victim of entrapment by police and that the trial court erred by allowing the state to present evidence of uncharged crimes and allowing the jury to consider "unsubstantiated bad acts."
Did Dippolito try to poison her husband?
During the trial, the state introduced evidence that Dippolito told her lover she had previously tried to poison her husband with antifreeze.
After Dippolito was found guilty in her first trial, defense attorneys Andrew Greenlee and Greg Rosenfeld appealed on the basis that the jury panel had been tainted "because they had all heard one juror say that she had heard Dippolito had attempted to poison her husband."
The appellate court agreed that the trial court had erred and ordered a new trial.
"We did not rule that the evidence could not be admitted under any circumstances," Judge Martha Warner wrote in Wednesday's decision.
Warner, writing for the three-judge panel, ruled that defense attorneys "opened the door" for the poisoning allegation when they elicited testimony from Dippolito's lover that he didn't believe she actually wanted to kill her husband.
"Here, we conclude that the court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the evidence of appellant's earlier attempt to poison her husband," Warner wrote. "That evidence was necessary to limit the lover's testimony on direct. It also explains why the lover initially approached the police -- because he did actually believe appellant was going to kill her husband."
Did conduct of Boynton Beach Police Department constitute entrapment?
Dippolito's attorneys also argued that the conduct of the Boynton Beach Police Department amounted to "objective entrapment."
Dippolito was seen on undercover surveillance video telling an undercover Boynton Beach police detective that she was "5,000 percent sure" she wanted her then-husband dead in 2009.
The meeting was arranged with the help of Dippolito's former lover, Mohamed Shihadeh.
"Although appellant asserts that the police threatened the lover to gain his cooperation, the trial court found that he was not threatened by police," Warner wrote. "It was the lover who first approached the police with his concern that appellant would kill her husband, not the other way around. The lover was not attempting to reduce his own exposure to a criminal sentence, nor was he being paid by law enforcement. And during cross-examination, the lover admitted that he was not actually threatened with prosecution."
Greenlee and Rosenfeld argued that police failed to properly supervise their confidential informant and never recorded the meeting between Dippolito, Shihadeh and the undercover detective.
"The mere fact that the lover made repeated phone calls to appellant without the police monitoring them is insufficient to show entrapment," Warner wrote.
In August 2009, the Boynton Beach Police Department staged a phony crime scene on the day that Dippolito's husband was supposed to be killed, recording her reaction. A camera crew for the television show "Cops" was also present.
Greenlee and Rosenfeld argued that Dippolito's due process was violated as a result.
"As the crime of solicitation to commit murder was completed before 'Cops' was involved, the agreement between the police and the show with respect to the filming did not constitute a due process violation," Warner wrote.
Should jury have heard about Dippolito's previous bad acts?
As well, defense attorneys argued the trial court erred by allowing into evidence "several collateral crimes" Dippolito was alleged to have committed, including stealing money from her husband, planting drugs in his car and trying to steal a gun from Shihadeh.
"The court did not abuse its discretion in admitting this evidence," Warner wrote. "Without reference to these other crimes, it would have been impossible to give a complete or intelligent account of the criminal episode and how it developed over time."
Dippolito's attorneys argued that the text messages between their client and another lover constituted hearsay and shouldn't have been admitted.
"The text mssages were entered into evidence to show that appellant had an ongong plot, first to have her husband's probation revoked in order to obtain his assets," Warner wrote. "And later, when she failed to get his probation revoked, she plotted to murder him."
Dippolito's former attorney argued during the initial trial that her actions were all in an effort to get on reality television. Her 2011 conviction and 20-year prison sentence were later thrown out on appeal.
The second trial in 2016 ended with a 3-3 hung jury.
Dippolito, who gave birth to a son while on house arrest between her second and third trials, is currently serving her prison sentence at the Lowell Correctional Institution Annex in Marion County. Her scheduled release date is 2032.
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