Sam Bankman-Fried’s defense team is urging the overseeing judge to examine prospective jurors on their prior encounters with the embattled FTX founder, and his now-defunct crypto empire. With just three weeks to go before Bankman-Fried faces trial for seven criminal counts, both the defense and the Department of Justice (DOJ) laid out their proposed questions for jury selection late Monday.
The proposed questions aim to unearth juror perspectives on a range of topics from cryptocurrency and, also extending to areas like political donations, lobbying, and the very ethos of “effective altruism” that led the entrepreneur to amass a fortune so he could give it away.
Obstruction or Right to Defense?
Bankman-Fried’s lawyers have been lobbying hard to secure his temporary release from jail to mount a robust defense. They contest the prosecution’s sunny narrative that their client enjoys adequate laptop access behind bars. His bail was revoked last month after allegations of witness tampering surfaced, making his current circumstances particularly onerous.
DOJ Accused of Overreach
The DOJ has sought to disqualify all seven of Bankman-Fried’s proposed third-party expert witnesses, questioning their relevancy and undermining their proposed testimonies. Defense attorneys also slammed the DOJ for attempting to curtail their client’s constitutional right to present a defense.
Judge Lewis Kaplan revoked Bankman-Fried’s bail last month, alleging witness tampering. And although an appeals court is still to weigh in, the defense’s bid for more lenient jail conditions hangs in limbo.
Veteran white-collar litigators suggest that the jury selection, ordinarily a few-hour affair, could span days given the intricacies of this case. Prospective jurors with glaring biases could be dismissed, as both parties have a limited number of strikes.
Salame’s Guilty Plea adds Up Pressure
Former FTX executive Ryan Salame recently pleaded guilty to charges, leaving Bankman-Fried as the sole defiant figure in this legal saga. The plea didn’t include a commitment to testify against Bankman-Fried, but the conviction that adds up the pressure on the FTX founder.
Cryptomarket on Tenterhooks Over $3.4 Billion Liquidation
Meanwhile, the crypto industry is on edge over rumors that FTX could secure court authorization to liquidate approximately $3.4 billion in cryptocurrencies. If given the green light, such a colossal liquidation event could send shockwaves through the Ethereum and Solana ecosystems.
The drama surrounding Bankman-Fried extends far beyond the courtroom. His legal team cited numerous instances where the limitations on his internet access had crippled their ability to prepare an effective defense, calling into question the fairness of the upcoming trial.