Monday, December 11, 2023

NEW YORK — Sam Bankman-Fried is charged with fraud, but he does not face the death penalty, the federal judge overseeing his case reassured a potential juror.

The FTX founder’s trial kicked off Tuesday morning, with a jury pool exceeding 50 people and around 40 reporters present in the lower Manhattan courtroom. No jurors have been selected as of press time; the morning was spent weeding out potential jurors who face hardships if they had to sit for a six-week trial, checking if any potential jurors had medical issues or if they had other conflicts.

One prospective juror – the same one who said she wouldn’t be able to reach a guilty verdict if a death sentence was on the table (“It is not a death penalty case,” the judge said) – said her employer had investments in Bankman-Fried’s companies Alameda Research and FTX; she was not struck before the court broke for lunch.

Another juror said she had to travel to attend a wedding later in the month. “How close is the relationship between you and” the person getting married, Judge Lewis Kaplan asked the prospective juror.

Another prospective juror said she was flying to Maui for six months. “You’re a courageous soul,” the judge quipped before asking for additional context.

As he has been in most previous hearings, Bankman-Fried was present, wearing a suit and sporting a haircut rather than his trademark disheveled mess of curls. Unlike his last court appearance, he was not shackled walking in. He spent most of his morning on a laptop conferring with his attorneys.

While a number of potential jurors have been dismissed, the judge said he believed a full jury of 12 people and six alternates could be seated by the end of the day, or by Wednesday morning at latest.

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