Sam Bankman-Fried's first day of trial ends

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Sam Bankman-Fried's first day of trial ends

On Tuesday, Sam Bankman-Fried had a grin on his face as he entered the court, dressed in a black suit and an uncharacteristically tame mop of hair. The disgraced crypto investor will finally be able to defend himself against a wide range of federal fraud and conspiracy charges related to the collapse of FTX, its crypto and futures exchange, and Alameda Research, the crypto trading firm he founded and, according to prosecutors, used to illegally re-invest FTX user funds.

The first day of the Bankman-Fried trial was all about voir dire, the process through which a judge, defense, and prosecution worked together to filter more than 80 New Yorkers to a final group of 12 jurors and six alternates. The trial's judge, Lewis Kaplan, peppered the jury with questions.

Underscoring the trial's location in the heart of New York's financial district - and the size of Bankman-Fried's once-giant crypto empire - the initial list of potential jurors included people whose professions overlapped with Alameda and FTX. One potential jury member said she had worked at Signature, the cryptocurrency-friendly bank that collapsed earlier this year and had ties to Alameda and FTX. Another jury member said her employer had invested directly in Alameda and FTX.

When Kaplan asked if anyone in the room had seen a recent 60 Minutes segment - an interview with author Michael Lewis about his recently released book about the rise and fall of Sam Bankman-Fried - at least seven jurors raised their hands.

Bankman-Fried sat silently between his attorneys during the majority of the jury selection process. He spent his time pecking away at a laptop keyboard. His lawyers previously expressed concern that he would not have enough time to review materials or otherwise work on his defense after his bond was revoked in August and he was sent to the Metropolitan Detention Center.

Despite the seriousness of the allegations affecting Bankman-Fried, his mood from the court's overflow rooms - where the press was sequestered - appeared to range from neutral to positive. While the judge himself cracked a few jokes during the selection process, he hammered some prospective jurors who appear to be trying very hard to avoid serving for the trial. One prospect tried three different sets of excuses - none of which appeared to convince the judge.

The judge also spoke directly to Bankman-Fried at the beginning of the day, letting the FTX founder know he had the right to testify in his own defense - even if his attorneys didn't expect or plan for him to do so.

Judge Lewis Kaplan of the Southern District of New York, who is overseeing the trial, said Jury selection should end Wednesday. There are around 50 potential jurors remaining in the case, after he dismissed a few dozen during yesterday's voir dire. Of the rest, 12 will be jurors and six will be named alternates, potentially as soon as later Wednesday morning.