The Concern Over Language
Lawyer Mark Cohen, representing Bankman-Fried, has taken significant issue with the wording and tone of the proposed questions. He believes that the language used may subconsciously instill bias in potential jurors.
For instance, the mention of “his fraud” as opposed to “his alleged fraud” is a point of contention. Such phrasing, Cohen argues, might inadvertently suggest to jurors that Bankman-Fried’s involvement in fraudulent activities is an established fact, even before any evidence is presented in court.
The Fundamental Right to a Fair Trial
The U.S. justice system is built on the foundational principle that an accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Cohen is pushing the court to remain true to this core tenet.
In his court filings, Cohen writes, “The Government’s proposed voir dire… risks tainting the jury by presenting the allegations in a prejudicial manner.” It is imperative for the defense that potential jurors come into the trial with an open mind, unaffected by suggestive language or preconceived notions.
U.S. Government’s Stance: Efficiency Over Bias?
While the defense is crying foul over the proposed jury questions, the U.S. government remains firm in its stance. The government sees Bankman-Fried’s alternative questions as not just unnecessary, but also as a tactic to prolong the jury selection process.
Specific points of contention include questions relating to pretrial publicity, the philosophy of effective altruism, political donations, lobbying, and even attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
An Awaiting Trial and Tight Timeline
With jury selection slated to begin on Oct. 3, time is of the essence. Both sides are preparing rigorously for a trial that promises to be both lengthy and intense. The trial calendar reveals 15 full trial days in October and another six in November.
A CEO Behind Bars
As the legal proceedings move forward, Bankman-Fried’s personal circumstances grow increasingly challenging. He has been held at the Metropolitan Detention Center since August 11. His multiple requests for temporary release, to better prepare for his defense, have been consistently denied by U.S. Judge Lewis Kaplan, adding another layer of complexity and drama to this high-profile case.