Tensions are ramping up in the courtroom as the criminal trial of former FTX CEO Sam “SBF” Bankman-Fried inches closer to its kick-off date. In a recent development, both the DOJ and the defense have submitted their respective voir dire questions for the jury selection slated for October 3. Attorneys from both sides are accusing each other of posing “unnecessarily intrusive” and potentially prejudicial questions.
Defense Attorney Mark Cohen fired back at the DOJ’s proposed jury questions, stating they “discourage full disclosure from potential jurors” and could “taint the jury by presenting the allegations in a prejudicial manner.” Specifically, Cohen takes issue with the omission of the word “allegedly” in describing the crimes Bankman-Fried is accused of, stating it “improperly suggests that fraud by Mr. Bankman-Fried is an established fact.”
The defense also objected to questions they believe could predispose jurors to favor the prosecution, simply for being part of the federal government. In a rapidly evolving space like cryptocurrency where public sentiment can swing wildly, such biases could be decisive.
The Controversial Question 31
Question 31, which asks potential jurors about encounters with law enforcement, was deemed particularly problematic by the defense. Cohen stated that the question is irrelevant and could disproportionately affect people of color, thereby risking the exclusion of potential jurors based on race.
The DOJ has also raised objections, criticizing some of Bankman-Fried’s proposed questions as being “designed to prime potential jurors into believing certain defense arguments” and bias them toward the defendant.
With seven fraud charges and potential penalties of up to 110 years in prison if convicted, the stakes couldn’t be higher for Bankman-Fried. Jury selection is more than a mere procedural hurdle; it’s a crucial phase that could determine the trial’s outcome.
The trial will run from October 4 to November 9, with 15 full days of action in October and six more in November. Bankman-Fried, who has been in pre-trial detention since August 11, was denied his latest release request on September 28.
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