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Murder-for-Hire Case Featured on 'Cops' TV Show Headed for Third Trial

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By George Khoury, Esq. on December 15, 2016 5:57 AM

The Florida wife that tried to hire a hitman to kill her husband in 2009 may be facing her third criminal trial soon. This week, the jury in Dalia Dippolito's retrial was unable to reach a verdict. When the judge realized that no amount of deliberation would break the deadlocked jury, he declared a mistrial.

This case has been making headlines for over half-a-decade at this point and was even featured on the popular TV show "Cops." The police department in charge of the case released audio and video footage on Youtube prior to the first trial in 2011. After Dippolito was convicted in 2011, an appeal was filed as a result of the court's failure to allow the defense to question prospective jurors, as well as the failure to ensure jurors were not biased due to the pre-trial media coverage. To the surprise of many, the appeal was successful and a retrial was ordered.

Officer as Murderer-for-Hire or Talent Agent?

During the retrial, the police department that headed up the investigation was alleged to have been more concerned with fame and publicity than proper police procedure. In fact, a retired officer that worked the case was actually one of the defense's leading witnesses.

Despite the defense showing that the police department was going 'rogue,' half the jury was still convinced that Dippolito was guilty. The most damning evidence comes from the undercover officer that the defendant made specific arrangements with to murder her husband, for a fee.

Mistrial Versus Jury Nullification

Unfortunately for Dippolito, a mistrial due to a hung, or deadlocked, jury is not the same thing as an acquittal. When a mistrial occurs, a defendant can be retried. Although many people assume that double jeopardy will apply, this is incorrect. Double jeopardy only applies when a jury reaches a verdict and acquits. Additionally, a deadlocked jury is different from jury nullification.

If all the jurors heard the evidence and decided to acquit (rule not-guilty), despite there being clear evidence of guilt, then not only would the defendant be free to go, but they could not be retried for the same crime. When a jury rules against the clear weight of the evidence (usually because they don't agree with the law or its application), then that is jury nullification.

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