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Defense says state sandbagged it with last-minute request to include poisoning allegation in trial

Posted at 12:08 PM, Jun 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-16 10:00:07-04

There has been a surprising request by the state in the final hours of testimony of Dalia Dippolito’s murder-for-hire trial. 

Dippolito is on trial for allegedly hiring a hit man to kill her then-husband. She was convicted in her first trial, but that conviction was overturned on appeal. Her second trial in December ended in a mistrial. Before her current trial, her attorneys tried to keep certain evidence of “alleged” “prior bad acts” out of the trial. 

On the sixth day of testimony in the trial, the state asked Judge Glenn Kelley to consider allowing evidence of an allegation that Dippolito tried to poison Mike Dippolito. In a pretrial motion, the defense asked the court to keep the allegation out of the trial, saying it would be highly prejudicial and outweigh its relevance to the case. The state had no objection then.

Prosecutor Craig Williams said the state changed its course Wednesday when the defense’s law enforcement expert testified that a confidential informant, who he said was pressured into cooperating with police, put the idea of the hit man into Dippolito’s mind. Williams said in light of that testimony they want to show jurors her intent by bringing up an allegation she tried to poison her husband. 

“Now they want to blow a gasket on that evidence yesterday, by taking the jury away from the evidence,” said defense attorney Brian Claypool who said the state has presented a ‘mountain of evidence’ to prove motive. 

Claypool argues the allegation was reportedly brought up by confidential information Mohamed Shihadeh five days after Dalia Dippolito was arrested and had nothing to do with her arrest. Claypool said the state waived its right to bring in this evidence when it did not object to the pretrial motion. 

“The timing of the state bringing up this issue and trying to get into evidence of Dalia allegedly poisoning Mike is disingenuous and it’s highly prejudicial to us because our case is almost over and we’ve missed several witnesses. For example, Detective Moreno, I don’t have a chance to ask him, ‘hey, is this true? You never even investigated this, nobody even took this seriously.’ I didn’t have a chance to ask Mike Dippolito, ‘Hey, did you ever file a police report?' ” said Claypool.

The state brought up this issue during an early break Judge Kelley called because Shihadeh would not be ready to testify until the afternoon.

The judge ruled on the state's motion before the defense called Shihadeh to the stand.

"At this hour I believe it would be unfairly prejudicial for the defense to allow this testimony in," said Judge Glenn Kelley.

However, the judge said the state could bring up the allegation Dippolito tried to poison her husband if Shihadeh denied Dippolito wanted her husband dead.

The judge abruptly called for a break when Dalia Dippolito started crying in the courtroom. Her former lover and friend turned police confidential informant was on the stand.

"When you initially contacted the Boynton Beach Police Department, why did you call?" defense attorney Greg Rosenfeld asked Shihadeh.

"I said that there's someone that wants to kill her husband or be dead," said Shihadeh.

"Did you really believe Ms. Dippolito was going to kill her husband?" asked Rosenfeld.

"No," answered Shihadeh. 

Shihadeh's testimony opened the door for the state to question him about other ways Dippolito tried to get out of her "situation." 

"She said she even tried to poison him, and you said to her, 'what do you mean poison him?' she told you that she researched something on the internet about some kind of antifreeze that's odorless, that doesn’t have a color, doesn’t have a smell, and she put it in his tea," said prosecutor Craig Williams.

Shihadeh admitted to remembering that. The state is trying to prove motive and revealeDippolitoto gave Shihadeh $1,200 for a gun for an alleged hit man. The defense got Shihadeh to confirm its long-standing argument that Shihadeh did not want to be involved in the investigation and was pressured and coerced. 

"They said if something happens, knowing that you have the information and we don't, if something happens to either one of them [Dalia Dippolito or Mike Dippolito] it's going to fall on you," said Shihadeh. 

The defense is calling another expert witness to the stand Friday morning. Jurors were asked to return at 10 a.m.