Elizabeth L. Parker, Esq.
DALIA DIPPOLITOâ€™S TEAM FACES A CRUCIAL TEST WITH JURY SELECTION AS HER TRIAL OPENS The Palm Beach Post April 245, 2011 by Susan Spencer-Wendel WEST PALM BEACH â€” When jury selection gets under way Monday morning for the trial of Dalia Dippolito, she will have at her side a trained actor and stage director who specializes in "jury selection and courtroom persuasion." Trial consultant Joe Guastaferro will help Dippolito's defense attorney, Michael Salnick, vet the panel of prospective jurors. It's a job of major consequence. Famed defense attorney Clarence Darrow said in 1936: "Never forget almost every case will be won or lost when the jury is sworn." Salnick and Guastaferro will work to select jurors most likely to be sympathetic to their case. On the other side, Chief Assistant State Attorney Elizabeth Parker will be doing the same. Dippolito, charged with solicitation to commit first-degree murder, is accused of plotting with a friend and supposed hit man - actually an undercover cop - to have her husband of six months, Michael Dippolito, killed. "That's a tough one for the defense. But a simple one for the jury. Not a lot of shades of gray," said Howard Varinsky, a Californiabased trial consultant who's worked a range of high-profile criminal trials, including those of Michael Jackson, Scott Peterson and Martha Stewart. Selection is no simple process, and maxims such as "women judge other women more harshly" do not apply across the board, Varinsky said. Take the case of Peterson, a handsome man sentenced to death for killing his pregnant wife, Laci. Varinsky urged prosecutors to seat a tattooed woman who dyed her hair a different shade of red every day. The woman they dubbed Strawberry Shortcake was an atypical choice for prosecutors, who tend to prefer conservativelooking, law-and-order types. Varinsky recognized a flash of muted anger in her as she was questioned on her appearance, and he believed she would not be bamboozled by Peterson. "I couldn't believe it myself," Varinsky says today of his advocacy for that juror. Trial consultants are routinely used in high-profile cases because they can have expertise many lawyers lack. Varinsky, for example, is a former psychologist. Jurors often do not honestly answer the questions asked of them, and studies show even trained FBI agents have a hard time telling when average people are lying, said trial consultant Art Patterson of DecisionQuest. A good trial consultant is well-versed at reading the unspoken signals. Consultants said it is difficult to pinpoint what kinds of jurors the state and defense will look for in the Dippolito case without knowing what her defense strategy will be. But prosecutors generally want logical thinkers, and the defense will hope to seat someone who has a reason to cut the defendant some slack, such as a person who had a bad experience with police. That juror could insist on acquittal, causing a mistrial.
Elizabeth L. Parker, Esq. Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath on Monday will begin bringing in 54 prospective jurors for questioning. Salnick and Parker asked the judge for permission to individually question prospective jurors. He denied the request but said he would reconsider if need be. Extensive negative pretrial publicity, as Dippolito's case has had, makes impartial jurors harder to find. Colbath has said he will allow the lawyers more than the usual number of peremptory challenges, where lawyers can eliminate a potential juror without giving a reason. Colbath has told the media that jurors' faces cannot be broadcast or published. So while the focus will be on the lawyers, witnesses and Dippolito, those selected as jurors will work in anonymity at least until after they reach a verdict.