FTX trial ends with few potential jurors excused

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FTX trial ends with few potential jurors excused

The first day of FTX founder's trial ended Tuesday, with a few dozen potential jurors excused. Around 50 people were left at the end of the day, Judge Lewis Kaplan said, before dismissing the remaining prospects in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Twelve jurors and six alternates will be selected Wednesday, and the judge said he expects opening arguments to begin shortly after.

As he has been in most previous hearings, Bankman-Fried appeared Tuesday, wearing a suit and sporting a haircut sans his trademark curly mop. Unlike his earlier court appearance, he was not shackled walking in. He spent most of the day on a laptop, speaking to his lawyers.

The one-time power broker of the cryptocurrency industry is accused of conducting what prosecutors have characterized as one of the largest financial frauds in history. Their twin crypto companies FTX and Alameda collapsed last November after customer withdrawals exposed an $8 billion hole in their balance sheets. He faces several years in prison if convicted.

Most of Tuesday was spent weeding out potential jurors based on their response to general questions ranging from their religious beliefs and physical disabilities to potential financial hardships that could complicate their participation in the trial expected to last six weeks. Several revealed they lost money investing in crypto, including one whose twin brother was nearly ruined.

One unusual moment saw a juror who knew of FTX through work tell Judge Kaplan she couldn't reach a guilty verdict if the penalty for Bankman-Fried was a death penalty. While jurors are taught to render their judgements irrespective of the convict's resulting punishment, Judge Kaplan broke that norm by guaranteeing her that death was not on the table in a financial crimes case.

When Kaplan asked if any of the jurors came to court with personal knowledge of Bankman-Fried, several raised their hands in the affirmative. Most of these people recalled learning about the case in the media when they were questioned individually.

Kaplan also probed the jury pool on whether they had any biases that would make it difficult for them to be impartial. I'm not sure how unbiased I could be about crypto given how negative I feel about it, said one potential juror.