Jury unable to reach unanimous decision in Dalia Dippolito murder-for-hire retrial

Attorney reveals Boynton Beach woman has infant son at home

By Peter Burke - Local10.com Managing Editor, Ian Margol - Reporter

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - After listening to the state's rebuttal during closing arguments, jurors began deliberating Tuesday in the retrial of a Boynton Beach woman accused of hiring an undercover police officer to kill her husband.

However, after almost a full day of deliberations, Palm Beach County Judge Glenn Kelley sent the jury home for the day, saying that they were unable to reach a unanimous decision.

"We the jury feel that we cannot reach a unanimous decision," Kelley said, reading a note from the jury.

Dalia Dippolito is accused of paying an undercover police officer, who was posing as a hit man, to kill her husband in 2009. The Boynton Beach Police Department staged a crime scene and recorded her reaction on the day her husband was supposed to be killed.

Dippolito 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.

Prosecutors allege that Dippolito offered an undercover officer $7,000 to kill her then-husband.

Defense attorneys claim the Boynton Beach Police Department wanted to gain attention by soliciting the "Cops" television show and violated Dippolito's constitutional rights by setting her up with the help of former lover Mohamed Shihadeh, who became a confidential informant for police.

Claypool revealed to the jury during his closing arguments Monday that Dippolito, 34, has an infant son at home.

"Give her that freedom back to go home to her family and her infant son," Claypool said.

Dippolito has been out on bond while awaiting her fate.

"They tossed Dalia Dippolito under the bus," Claypool told the jury. "They made this way more than it ever was, and they could care less about her constitutional rights."

Assistant state attorney Laura Laurie told jurors during her rebuttal that the Boynton Beach Police Department isn't on trial.

"This is the case of the state of Florida v. Dalia Dippolito," Laurie said.

Laurie reminded jurors of what Dippolito told the undercover officer.

"You can do the hit and you can take the money," Laurie said, repeating Dippolito's words. "She wants her husband to finance his own murder."

Dippolito didn't testify in either trial, but she said in a hearing earlier this year that she was acting for a television show and wasn't really plotting to kill her husband.

Her former attorney argued in the 2011 trial that Dippolito thought she was being recorded as part of a hoax to get her husband on a reality TV show. She was found guilty, but the verdict was thrown out because of a mistake during jury selection.

This time around, Kelley and attorneys for both sides screened 200 prospective jurors before settling on the six jurors -- four women and two men -- and two alternates. Defense attorneys sought to move the trial to another county or bring in a jury from outside of Palm Beach County, but Kelley denied the requests.

Prosecutors only called two witnesses to testify during the trial. The first was Officer Widy Jean, who posed as a hit man in his recorded conversations with Dippolito. The other was Detective Alex Moreno, who was the lead investigator in the case.

Shihadeh testified last week for the defense that he was coerced into helping police and said he never believed that she would actually follow through with the alleged plot. However, when questioned by the prosecution during cross examination, Shihadeh admitted that he believed Dippolito truly wanted her husband dead.

Defense attorneys also questioned Boynton Beach Police Department spokeswoman Stephanie Slater, who posted footage of the phony crime scene on the department's YouTube channel, and former police Sgt. Frank Ranzie, who testified that he would have done things differently if he had been in charge of the investigation.

The final witness for the defense was Tim Williams, a retired Los Angeles police detective who said he disagreed with the tactics used by the Boynton Beach Police Department.

"You don't coerce anyone to be involved in an investigation, to make a statement or anything else, because anything that results from that could be, may be and will be tainted," Williams testified.

Despite defense attorneys' objections, prosecutors on Monday showed the jury the video of police telling Dippolito that her husband had been killed.

Jurors began deliberating about 11 a.m. They returned to the courtroom a few hours later to review the video and telephone calls that were presented to them during the trial.

Kelley instructed the jury to return to continue deliberations Wednesday morning.

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