Video vs. police misconduct argued in murder-for-hire trial

AP News
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Posted: Dec 12, 2016 6:35 PM
Video vs. police misconduct argued in murder-for-hire trial

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Prosecutors have long contended that Dalia Dippolito's own words prove she wanted a hit man to murder her newlywed husband. Her attorneys have argued detectives were more interested in starring on the television show "Cops" than they were in pursuing truth and justice.

Neither side strayed from their scripts during closing arguments at her retrial Monday.

Prosecutor Craig Williams spent most of his closing argument replaying hidden-camera videos that have been seen by millions on "Cops," ''20/20" and online since the department made them public in 2009.

In one, Dippolito demanded that her former lover Mohammed Shihadeh find her a hit man, giving him a $1,200 deposit for his trouble and to buy the killer a gun. In another, she told undercover detective Widy Jean, portraying the would-be hit man, she was "5,000 percent sure" she wanted her husband dead.

"This case is based 100 percent on her words, her actions, her intent — all day, every day," Williams told the six-member Palm Beach County jury, pointing at the expressionless defendant.

When Jean said he would put two bullets in Michael Dippolito's head and she agreed, "it's over," Williams said. When she promised to pay Jean $7,000 and left the house the morning she thought her husband would be murdered without warning him, "it's over."

Brian Claypool, Dippolito's attorney, countered by blasting the Boynton Beach Police Department's investigation, calling it "evil, manipulative, corrupt, self-serving." He said Shihadeh first told detectives Dippolito was a domestic abuse victim, and said they could have handled it simply by calling her.

Instead, he said, detectives "escalated" the investigation to impress "Cops" producers, who were arriving in town to film cases with the department. He slammed detectives for not recording dozens of phones calls and a key meeting between Shihadeh and Dippolito. He said police knew these conversations would damage their "script" by showing she was being pressured to meet with the supposed hit man.

Convicting Dippolito, he said, would reward the department's "lying and cheating."

"This case is way bigger than Dalia Dippolito," Claypool said. "This case is about holding law enforcement accountable, not only here but everywhere....You all have a stake in this."

Dippolito, 34, briefly cried during Claypool's argument as other defense attorneys rubbed her back.

She is being retired on charges of solicitation to commit first-degree murder. Her 2011 conviction and 20-year sentence were overturned on appeal because of mistakes during jury selection by the previous judge. If convicted as before, she faces a maximum 20-year sentence.

Prosecutors didn't lay out a motive during this trial. Previously, they said they believe she wanted control of her husband's $250,000 savings and their $225,000 town house.

Neither did Dippolito testify this time. At her previous trial and during court hearings, she said she was only acting, thinking they were involved in an ill-planned video project aimed at landing their own reality TV show. She also said previously that Shihadeh threatened her with a gun if she didn't meet Jean.

Michael Dippolito and Shihadeh have denied there was a video project and Shihadeh has denied threatening Dippolito. Shihadeh did say Boynton Beach detectives threatened him with arrest if he didn't stick with the investigation. Such a threat would violate department policy.

Jury deliberations are expected to begin Tuesday.