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Government objects to ‘unnecessary,’ ‘prejudicial’ SBF jury selection questions

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On Sept. 15, the United States government responded to questions the defense has suggested posing to potential jurors during their selection for the case against former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried. He faces seven charges of fraud and money laundering in connection with the collapse of the cryptocurrency exchange that could land him in prison for decades.

The sides submitted their proposed questions to the court on Sept. 11 and showed drastically different standards for selection.

In a letter addressed to Judge Lewis Kaplan of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams objected to questions in four of the 14 sections of voir dire proposed by the defense. Voir dire is the process of questioning potential jurors. Williams wrote:

“The defendant’s proposed voir dire contains numerous unnecessary and time-consuming questions, often soliciting open-ended discussion, as well as questions that are repetitive, prejudicial, and argumentative.”

Specifically, Williams objects to the questions in sections concerning pretrial publicity, the effective altruism philosophical movement, political donations and lobbying, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Related: Sam Bankman-Fried says, ‘I did what I thought was right,’ in leaked docs: Report

The pretrial publicity section has a shaky legal foundation, while questions about effective altruism “are a thinly veiled attempt to advance a defense narrative.” Questions about political donations are irrelevant and those about ADHD are irrelevant and prejudicial, Williams wrote. Bankman-Fried is said to suffer from ADHD.

The government’s questions, in contrast, are “standard, neutral, and appropriate,” Williams wrote. Both sides propose asking future jurors about their attitudes toward cryptocurrency. Among the defense questions is:

“If a company involved in the cryptocurrency industry or the financial industry fails, do you feel that only the owners of the company must be to blame?”

Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. His trial will begin in New York on Oct. 3.

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