Pre-Trial Jury Inquiries Proposed by Sam Bankman-Fried and the DOJ for October Trial

Police & Regulations
Sep 12, 2023 at 11:03 am

Amidst an ongoing debate about Sam Bankman-Fried's potential release from custody for the purpose of preparing his defense, his legal team is urging the presiding judge to pose specific questions to potential jurors. These questions aim to ascertain whether the individuals have had any interactions with the FTX founder, the cryptocurrency realm, or the now-defunct crypto empire.

Recently, both Bankman-Fried's attorneys and the Department of Justice (DOJ) submitted their suggested queries for the jury. This submission comes just three weeks before the FTX founder is slated to face trial on seven criminal charges. The objective of these proposed questions is to identify if any prospective jurors have prior familiarity with the case, cryptocurrency, or with effective altruism—a philosophy that supposedly motivated Bankman-Fried to amass wealth for charitable purposes. These queries, which primarily seem to be standard fare for jury selection, also probe potential jurors' opinions on matters such as political contributions, lobbying, and the legal system.

Both sets of proposed questions inquire whether potential jurors have any history of dealing with the prosecutors, defense attorneys, or potential witnesses (although the names of these witnesses have not been fully disclosed yet). Other questions follow a similar standard, seeking information about prospective jurors' backgrounds, professions, and any direct involvement or knowledge pertaining to FTX and Alameda Research.

The DOJ's proposed questions suggest the judge emphasize the role of the jury in determining factual matters. They underscore that the jury's duty is to weigh the facts independently and that neither the Court nor the lawyers should influence this role. However, regarding legal matters, the jurors should strictly adhere to the Court's instructions.

These submissions follow last month's proposed jury instructions, which are intended to be conveyed to the actual jurors during the trial.

Bankman-Fried's legal team has been striving to secure his temporary release from custody in order to facilitate his defense. They argue that the prosecutors' claims about his access to a laptop are overly optimistic.

Last month, his bail was revoked after Judge Lewis Kaplan, presiding over the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, found evidence of Bankman-Fried attempting to tamper with witnesses on multiple occasions. While the defense has appealed this decision, the appeals court has not yet reviewed the arguments, and the judge has refrained from making any decisions about his custody conditions thus far.

According to a white-collar litigation attorney familiar with such cases, jury selection typically takes only a few hours. However, given the complexity of Bankman-Fried's case, it may extend to several days. During the voir dire process, the judge will scrutinize for any obvious biases. The attorneys have a limited number of preemptive strikes, allowing them to dismiss a certain number of potential jurors, as well as the authority to disqualify any prospective jurors showing clear biases.

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