Judge denies change of venue motion in murder-for-hire trial

AP News
|
Posted: Dec 05, 2016 6:24 PM

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — The process of finding six objective jurors to hear the case of a Florida woman accused of trying to hire a hit man to kill her husband plodded forward Monday with the judge beginning to wonder if he'll need to have an out-of-town jury hear the case.

Judge Glenn Kelley rejected an initial motion by Dalia Dippolito's attorneys to move the trial out of Palm Beach County or bring in jurors from elsewhere in Florida but after a third day of jury selection Monday wondered aloud if he is "the little boy with his finger in the dyke trying to hold back the flood."

About 60 prospective jurors remain of an original pool of 200. Jury selection was expected to last two days but will enter a fourth and likely final day Tuesday.

Dippolito's attorneys argued that local and national news media coverage, including an episode of the television series "Cops," has made it impossible to find an impartial local jury. Most of the 200 prospective jurors interviewed last week said they knew about the case and think Dippolito is guilty. Those prospective jurors were dismissed, but attorney Brian Claypool argued that wasn't enough.

"This case is a poster child" for change of venue, Claypool said.

Kelley said he wants to give more thought to whether Dippolito can get a fair trial in Palm Beach County before giving a final ruling.

This is Dippolito's second trial on charges she tried to hire a hit man in 2009 to kill her newlywed husband, convicted conman Michael Dippolito. Prosecutors allege she wanted his $250,000 in savings and their $225,000 town house. If convicted of solicitation to commit first-degree murder, she could be sentenced up to 20 years.

Dippolito's arrest was seen by millions on "Cops" and ABC's "20/20." An appellate court threw out a 2011 conviction because the previous judge made an error during jury selection.

Prosecutors allege Dippolito, 34, offered an undercover police officer $7,000 to kill her then-husband. Dippolito has testified previously that she, her husband and her former lover Mohamed Shihadeh were shooting an ill-conceived video project they planned to post online in hopes it would land them a reality TV show. Claypool said she may not testify again.

She claims police entrapped her because they wanted to impress "Cops" producers and give them an unforgettable case that would gain national attention. She says Boynton Beach police threatened Shihadeh with arrest if he backed out of the case.

Michael Dippolito, who says he met his ex-wife when he hired her to meet him for sex, and Shihadeh have denied there was a project. Shihadeh also denies threatening her but says Boynton Beach police threatened him with arrest if he didn't stick with their investigation. The police have denied that.

___

Follow Terry Spencer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/terryspen. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/author/terry-spencer.