Sex, lies and videotape will again take center stage in Superior
Court Judge Francisco Briseno's courtroom today with the retrial of
three young men charged with gang-raping a girl in 2002.
Attorneys in the case made it clear to prospective jurors last
week that they will have to watch and evaluate a videotape the three
defendants made of the incident in the Corona del Mar home of former
Orange County Assistant Sheriff Don Haidl, father of 19-year-old
defendant Greg Haidl. That video, which will be shown to jurors but
not the public, is a key piece of evidence in the trial, as it was in
the first one in 2004.
That trial ended with a hopelessly deadlocked jury. Briseno
declared a mistrial.
Greg Haidl and Kyle Nachreiner and Keith Spann, both now 20, are
accused of gang-raping a seemingly unconscious 16-year-old girl,
referred to in court proceedings as Jane Doe, on a pool table and
sexually assaulting her with various objects, including a pool cue,
juice bottle and a lighted cigarette.
"It's difficult for anybody to watch the film," said John Barnett,
attorney for Nachreiner. "But [the jurors] promised they can and
After an initial prescreening of nearly 800 prospective jurors, it
took a day and a half for attorneys to agree upon 12 jurors and four
alternates from a pool of 120.
Like the first jury, it comprises eight men and four women.
Attorneys for both sides said the numbers are a coincidence.
"I think it's a very fair-minded, practical, intelligent jury,"
said Chief Assistant Dist. Atty. Chuck Middleton, who is prosecuting
One wrinkle in the jury selection that's likely to be smoothed out
today is a connection between one of the jurors, who has not been
identified, and Don Haidl. The juror told a bailiff last week he
needed to talk to the judge about a possible conflict, because the
juror works for Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe, who has
received campaign contributions from the elder Haidl.
The juror will speak with the judge about the Haidl link this
morning but has not requested removal from the jury, Middleton said.
"It doesn't seem like a big deal to me," said Middleton, who
learned of the situation from a reporter. "It's an employee-employer
relationship, not a friend thing."
Last week's jury selection represents the first time in
Middleton's lengthy career he has worked with a jury consultant.
The district attorney's office hired Marissa Beyers, a social
psychologist who works with jury consultant J. Lee Meihls, to help
pick the jury for the retrial. Meihls is helping defense attorneys in
the Michael Jackson child molestation case select a jury.
High-profile jury consultant Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, who worked on the
O.J. Simpson and Scott Peterson cases, helped the defense select the
jury for this retrial, as she did in the original trial.
Such moves are common for defendants who can afford the high price
tag of such services. But prosecutors don't often make the same move.
"I have done over 170 jury trials in 26 years of practice," said
Pete Scalisi, an attorney for Greg Haidl. "This is the first time
I've ever seen a prosecutor use a consultant."
Defense attorneys hired members of the first jury to act as
consultants for the retrial, a move that stirred ethical debate in
the legal community.
Don Haidl, a successful businessman, has funded his son's defense
and stood by him throughout his legal troubles. Since the mistrial,
Greg Haidl has had a number of minor scrapes with the law, including
the alleged statutory rape of another 16-year-old girl.
Briseno revoked his bail after he was involved in an
alcohol-related traffic accident in October. Greg Haidl will remain
in Orange County Jail throughout the trial but will wear his own
clothes, not a jail jumpsuit, in front of the jury.
During the first trial, defense attorneys sought to discredit Doe,
whom they said was a willing participant and had aspirations of
becoming a porn star. The prosecution argued that she was too
intoxicated to give consent.
Doe, the prosecution's first witness, will testify later this
week. Opening arguments from Middleton and four defense attorneys are
expected to last until the end of the day today.
* MARISA O'NEIL covers public safety and courts. She may be
reached at (714) 966-4618 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.