Attorneys for Ex-FTX CEO Samuel Bankman-Fried Challenge Proposed Jury Questions Ahead of Fraud Trial

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In a recent legal document filed, attorneys for the former CEO of cryptocurrency exchange FTX, Samuel Bankman-Fried, have raised objections regarding the proposed jury questions for the upcoming fraud trial. The document asserts that the government’s proposed jury questions could elicit biased responses against Bankman-Fried, which might lead to an unfair trial.

Mark S. Cohen and Christian R. Everdell, representing Bankman-Fried, submitted a letter on September 29, 2023, to the Honorable Lewis A. Kaplan of the United States District Court, Southern District of New York, expressing concerns about the government’s proposed voir dire (jury questioning process). They argue that the proposed questions discourage full disclosure from potential jurors and fail to provide sufficient information for the defense to assess potential juror bias. The defense further maintains that the phrasing used in some questions already suggests a biased image, assuming Bankman-Fried’s guilt in fraud and money laundering charges.

In specific terms, Cohen and Everdell point out that paragraph 3 of the government’s summary of charges and Question 33 improperly phrase “his fraud” instead of “his alleged fraud” or simply “fraud,” which they argue suggests that Bankman-Fried’s involvement in fraud is an established fact, undermining the presumption of innocence.

The defense team suggests using a voir dire proposed by Bankman-Fried, which they believe will provide a fair opportunity to expose any bias or prejudice on the part of potential jurors. This, they argue, will enable both parties to intelligently exercise challenges for cause and peremptory challenges during the jury selection process.

On the other hand, the United States government opposes Bankman-Fried’s proposed questions, deeming them unnecessary and time-consuming. They particularly criticize questions concerning pretrial publicity, the philosophical movement of effective altruism, political donations and lobbying, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The trial is set to begin on October 4, 2023, with the jury selection process beginning on October 3. According to the trial calendar, there will be a total of 15 full trial days in October, followed by six more in November. Meanwhile, Bankman-Fried has been detained at the Metropolitan Detention Center since August 11.

As the fraud trial approaches, the defense and prosecution are locking horns over the jury selection process. The outcome of these pretrial discussions could significantly impact the proceedings and ultimately the verdict in the case against the former FTX CEO.

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