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Flap ensues over hiring ex-jurors

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As he prepared to defend a 19-year-old client facing retrial on charges of gang rape, Orange County attorney Joseph Cavallo took a step that some legal experts are calling unusual at best - and at worst, potentially harmful to the entire trial-by-jury system.

Mr. Cavallo announced he had hired as consultants members of a jury that had heard the same case last year but had not been able to reach a verdict.

The county prosecutor in the case, Tony Rackauckas, calls the action "outrageous." His concern: Jurors sitting on the second trial might conclude that they could be worth hiring too - if they refuse to convict. "He's sending a message to the second jury that if they go the right way, they can get on the payroll, too."

Nonsense, insists Cavallo. The former jurors are helping him prepare to retry the case by telling him how they understood the case - and their reactions to it - during the first trial. They are jury consultants of a sort, the defense lawyer says, working alongside a more traditional team of professional jury consultants.

"Their input has been beyond expectations in terms of each phase of the trial," Cavallo says. " 'How did you see the evidence, the lawyers? The witnesses? The prosecutors?' That's what they're telling us."

Juror behavior has been making headlines of late. From the juror who was alleged to have gestured to the defense during last year's Tyco trial, to the juror who was said to have lied about his past in the Martha Stewart case, to the jurors who were dismissed during the Scott Peterson trial for various forms of misconduct, they've played high-profile roles in prominent cases.

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