Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley was just about to bring Dalia Dippolito’s jury into the courtroom to send them home for the weekend when they beat him to the door with a knock
After just 90 minutes of deliberations that capped six days of testimony in her murder solicitation retrial, Dippolito, 34, appeared to instinctively understand that word of a verdict that quickly did not bode well for her.
She never flinched as Kelley announced the Palm Beach County jury had found her guilty of the 2009 plot, caught on camera, to have her husband at the time killed. But later Friday, after she had been removed from the courtroom and ordered taken to jail, deputies called paramedics for her when she had trouble breathing. Her attorney, Brian Claypool, said she had been hyperventilating and was still taken to the county jail after being calmed down.
The new jury took half the time Dippolito’s first jury had to come to the same decision six years ago. But it was a reversal of her trial in December, when jurors announced they couldn’t reach a unaminous decision in the case after deliberations that spanned two days.
Over objections from Claypool and Dippolito’s other attorney, Greg Rosenfeld, Kelley ordered Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies to take Dippolito to jail immediately. Barring any extraordinary appeals, she will stay there until her sentencing, scheduled July 21.
“Can I make a phone call to my son?” Dippolito asked the judge, her first public reference to the toddler son, Dominick, whose existence became the bombshell Claypool dropped on jurors in her last trial.
The judge appeared amenable to the request, made as the audible sobs of Dippolito’s mother, Randa Mohamed, intensified. Dippolito’s mother soon after tried to hug her as deputies led her to the back of the courtroom to be fingerprinted, but could only get as far as a kiss on her hand before deputies separated them. Mohamed began wailing, and she continued crying as loved ones led her from the courtroom.
Outside, Assistant State Attorneys Craig Williams and Laura Burkhart Laurie left the courthouse without comment. As he got to the end of the long hallway, Williams subtly pumped his fist.
“That woman is as guilty as anyone has ever been in a criminal courtroom,” Williams told jurors in closing arguments Friday. “It’s like Old Milwaukee. It doesn’t get any better than this.”
After December’s hung jury, many criticized the state strategy of presenting a much shorter case than former Dippolito prosecutor Elizabeth Parker had in 2011. The second trial, in December, became necessary after an appellate court overturned the 2011 verdict.
Williams and Laurie responded this time around by getting jurors more evidence to consider than even Parker had, revealing on Thursday to the first Dippolito jury ever that Dippolito tried to poison her husband’s iced tea with antifreeze before she sought out a hit man.
Dippolito’s defense, that Boynton Beach police forced Dippolito’s lover Mohamed Shihadeh to get her involved in the plot in a desperate ploy to spice up an episode of the television show COPS, crumbled quickly.
“Obviously the jury could see through the Defense’s lies and antics and they got it right,” Michael Dippolito, her intended victim and now ex-husband, said Friday in a written statement released by Parker, who now represents him.
Then he hearkened back again to a play on words from a video in evidence of Dalia Dippolito telling an undercover officer posing as a hitman that she was “5,000 percent sure” she wanted him dead.
“I am 5,000 percent happy to see that Justice was served once again,” Michael Dippolito said.
Much less pleased were Claypool and Rosenfeld, who said prosecutors won the conviction “making jurors hate Dalia Dippolito” and “portraying her as a black widow.”
Months before Dippolito’s third trial began June 8, Claypool said he would go “to the earth’s end” to make sure she was acquitted. And on Friday, he and Rosenfeld said that fight is not over, vowing to appeal several of Kelley’s rulings in the case. Among them are the admission into evidence of the poisoning claims and allegations that Dippolito tried to hire a man named “Larry” to kill her husband.
“This case was about demonizing Dalia Dippolito,” Claypool said. “It’s a daunting task when you spend three-fourths of a trial fending off character assassination.”
In his closing arguments, Claypool was openly incredulous that Boynton Beach police ever thought Dippolito was serious about her intentions to kill her husband. He laughed off the arrangements she made with Widy Jean, the undercover officer who played the role of “hit man,” by wondering aloud what kind of hit man would agree to kill someone on credit and offer a money-back guarantee.
He also blasted police for a pivotal encounter between Dippolito and Shihadeh at a Chili’s restaurant that went unrecorded, calling it “45 minutes of reasonable doubt.” Claypool also asked jurors to consider why police would later laugh at Dippolito for orderinig her husband some food from the restaurant on her way out.
“I’m gonna blow my husband’s brains out but I’m going to order some chicken tenders for him. Really?” Claypool asked.
In the end, none of it was enough.
As with the investigation itself, the most damning evidence against Dippolito in the trial came out through Shihadeh.
Of the three men in Dippolito’s life who prosecutors told jurors about, Shihadeh appeared to stir her emotions the most.
Laurie told jurors that while Michael Dippolito thought he’d found love, Dalia Dippolito “saw a sucker.”
And the now-deceased Mike Stanley, who agreed in text messages to help Dippolito frame her husband and get him sent back to jail, was described by prosecutors as another pawn in what they called her scheme of “greed and manipulation.”
Dippolito never shed a tear at the mention of either man, but dissolved in tears when Shihadeh testified in December and again on Thursday.
While Dippolito took $100,000 from her husband, she gave Shihadeh $38,000, which he used toward the purchase of a Range Rover he sold two weeks later.
He never gave her the money back, and the only explanation he offered on the witness stand Thursday was that he was a “heavy gambler” at the time.
On Friday, as Dippolito was taken to the Palm Beach County jail after paramedics treated her, Shihadeh, with his testimony about the poison attempt, appeared again to have been her undoing.
Jury foreman Thomas Gaines, reached by phone Friday night, declined to comment in detail about the verdict, but said there was little disagreement among the panelists about whether Dippolito was guilty and that the evidence against her was overwhelming.
“Pretty much it was,” he said when asked if the evidence was clear-cut.
Dippolito faces up to 20 years in prison when she is sentenced.