South Florida Woman Convicted of Contract Killing after Third Trial – Part One

The scene opened with a text placard reading:

Contract Killing

It then fades out to a passage showing the entrance of the Boynton Beach Police Department where the narration by a detective begins as follows:

“We received a call that was transferred into our detective bureau related to a woman who wanted to hire a hitman to kill her husband”.

The next scene shows a woman sitting in a car speaking with a man who turns out to be an undercover officer during a conversation that was being recorded.

The woman says “No, I’m tougher than I look…” and laughs as the conversation progresses and tells the undercover police officer that she was “5,000 percent sure” she wanted him killed. During the 23-minute video, she agreed to pay $7,000 to who she believed was a hit-man to carry out the killing.

Moving forward, the rolling TV cameras demonstrate how police set up an operation to make the woman believe that the murder for hire contract was satisfied.

The next scene shows police explaining how she had three, maybe four “outs” with undercover to step out of this deal; and she took none.

We then see police interact with her husband Michael Dippolito as he’s entering his residence with one officer telling him “You need to come with me to the police station; you’re not in trouble; your wife has hired a person to kill you”.

Then, in an interview room, we hear Mr. Dippolito tell police “honestly, I’m not surprised or shocked about all of this”.

This was the beginning of the true crime television series Cops which was aired nationally on December 15, 2011. The show devoted the complete episode to this case.

In the real life drama, the next scene of the TV episode shows Mrs. Dippolito arriving home in her car from an undisclosed location after being called by police who informed her there had been an incident at her home that involved her husband.
Upon reaching her residence, an officer tells her “Listen, we had a report of a disturbance at your house, and there were shots fired.
Is your husband Michael?
Mrs. Dippolito then hurriedly shakes her head up and down before the officer completes the sentence by telling her;
“I’m sorry to tell you ma’am, he’s been killed.

Hearing the news Mrs. Dippolito gasps and screams hysterically “no, no, no!”

Based on this recorded evidence, Dalia Dippolito was arrested and soon to be convicted for solicitation to commit murder of her newlywed husband.

The conviction in 2011 led to a sentence of twenty years in prison.

But that’s not where the story ended.

Dippolito’s attorneys appealed the case based on grounds that the presence of a TV crew during the investigation basically changed the way investigators did their job and that the prospective jury pool was poisoned by media comments.

Frank Ranzie, a former police detective, testifying for the defense, told jurors that having the film crew from Cops damaged the case against Dippolito. His testimony included stating that he strongly objected to his supervisors about the presence of the reality show’s cameras during the sting operation, but his bosses from the Boynton Beach Police Department ordered that he cooperate with their personnel.

The case also gained national attention by airing on the syndicated show Crime Watch Daily, as well as Network TV’s 20/20 (ABC), and NBC’s Dateline; it also went viral on the internet with its YouTube video getting more than 300,000 views.

Subsequent YouTube videos relating to the case received hundreds of thousands additional views as well as making International headlines. Click here to see all the videos related to the case.

In 2014, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled in Dippolito’s favor and threw out her conviction along with the twenty-year prison sentence.

Her appellate attorney successfully argued that the jury selection process in the original trial was tainted.

The success of the appeal was attributed by the facts that during group questioning, the jurors being selected for the original trial all heard one prospective juror make a comment about an allegation made by a local news station stating that Mrs. Dippolito had previously tried to poison her husband. This claim was originally ruled prejudicial and inadmissible in court.

Furthermore, the appellate court also took into consideration that the trial court in the defendant’s criminal case had apparently screened the jurors for bias by merely asking them to raise their hand if they had “strong feelings” pertaining to the case following the broad media coverage.

Although at the time none responded by doing so, the appellate court ruled: “Appellant had the right to ask these jurors what specific information they had learned from the media; a show of hands was insufficient to protect her right to a fair and impartial jury.”

Based on this, the court overturned the conviction, finding that the original court erred in denying Mrs. Dippolito’s lawyers request to strike the jury pool after the prospective juror revealed that information.

In summation, the Fourth District ruling noted that the trial court had improperly denied defense counsel’s request to individually question the prospective jurors.

Bolin v. State of Florida and Boggs v. State of Florida, were cited as precedent for their ruling.

Mrs. Dippolito was released but placed under house arrest as the prosecution would again file charges to retry the case.

In her second trial the jury couldn’t come up with a clear verdict by a vote deadlocked at 3-3. The judge eventually declared a mistrial based on a hung jury

The conditions of her house arrest allowed her to make trips to church, medical appointments, her lawyer’s office and court.

The terms were later changed after Mrs. Dippolito gave an interview with ABC’s “20/20” in December, 2016. Visits to her lawyer’s office in Miami were removed from the terms.

Her third and most likely final trial took place late this past summer where she again was convicted and sentenced to sixteen years in prison.

Due to the vast amount of information in this case, her second and third trial will be discussed in my next blog post.

Check back here soon for the conclusion of this seemingly never-ending case