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SBF Under Fire: DOJ Questions His 'Intrusive' Jury Interrogation

The United States (US) Department of Justice (DOJ) has raised concerns regarding FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried's (SBF) proposed jury questions, deeming them "unnecessarily intrusive" and suggesting they may serve to bolster his defense strategy.

Both SBF and the DOJ submitted voir dire questions earlier this week, encompassing standard inquiries about potential jurors' familiarity with the case, as well as more specific queries regarding their knowledge of individuals with ADHD.

These questions play a pivotal role in assisting both the prosecution and defense in selecting an impartial and fair jury.

What Is Voir Dire?

Voir dire is like a job interview for potential jurors in a court case.

It is the process where lawyers on both sides, the prosecution, and the defense, ask questions to the people who might serve on the jury.

The goal is to make sure the jurors are fair and impartial, without any biases or prejudices that could affect their judgment.

During voir dire, the lawyers ask the potential jurors about their backgrounds, beliefs, and any experiences that might relate to the case.

This helps them decide if a person is suitable to be a juror for that specific trial.

If someone seems like they might have a bias or conflict of interest, they may not be chosen to be on the jury.

The goal is to have a group of jurors who can make a fair decision based on the facts presented in court, without any preconceived ideas or personal biases.

What Is Entailed In The Letter From The Prosectors?

In a letter addressed to Judge Lewis Kaplan of the Southern District of New York, prosecutors underscored their reservations about the intrusiveness of several of SBF's proposed questions.

Notably, they highlighted inquiries probing potential jurors' sentiments towards FTX, the crypto exchange that made headlines for its spectacular collapse last November due to alleged fraudulent activities.

The letter stated:

"The defense requests numerous open-ended questions about potential jurors' opinions regarding the case, the defendant, and the defendant's businesses, even inquiring whether they can 'completely ignore' their prior knowledge. Such a line of questioning, we argue, exceeds the intended scope of voir dire and is unnecessarily invasive."

Furthermore, the prosecutors found questions regarding effective altruism, a philosophical stance claimed by SBF, to be not only superfluous but also a veiled attempt to advance a narrative that portrays the defendant as someone solely driven by wealth accumulation to "better the world."

The filing emphasised that these questions are extraneous to the matter at hand.

Similarly, the questions regarding ADHD, for which SBF takes medication, were characterised as "irrelevant and prejudicial" by the DOJ.

The filling stated that:

"The defense is foreclosed from raising a mental disease, defect, or condition defense – no notice of such a defense … was provided by the Court-imposed deadline. Telling the jury that the defendant has ADHD would serve only to improperly cast the defendant at the outset of the trial in a sympathetic light."

The prosecution is actively considering the technological requirements for the upcoming trial.

They have formally requested the provision of a high-speed Ethernet connection, a dedicated printer for government use, and headphones for the jury.

Their rationale for these requests is to enhance the presentation of evidence in a manner that is both effective and efficient.

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