The jury selection process for Sam Bankman-Fried fraud trial

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The jury selection process for Sam Bankman-Fried fraud trial

Ari Redbord is the head of policy and government affairs at TRM Labs, the blockchain intelligence firm. Exactly nine months and 20 days after Sam Bankman-Fried was arrested in the Bahamas, the founder and former CEO of FTX will stand trial in New York federal court next week on charges involving his involvement in defrauding customers of the exchange.

SBF, an extradition, multiple cooperating witnesses, and a mountain of electronic evidence, has moved at Usain Bolt's speed.

The trial process can take several years to complete cases of this size and scale. A jury must be selected before both sides make their opening statements. The process, called voir dire, will kick off tomorrow.

voir dire is the process in which potential jurors from the community are questioned by either the judge or the lawyers to determine their suitability for jury service.

The process is intended to allow both sides and the court to identify jurors who are impartial and unbiased. The judge will ask questions from potential jurors during the process, including those submitted by government and defence lawyers.

Some questions will be personal in nature, while others will be more substantive to determine whether or not a juror has a connection to the parties in the case or holds a bias for or against the defendant.

As the serious nature of the case, lawyers on both sides can each use ten peremptory challenges to remove jurors from the case.

While the questions, for the most part, are standard jury selection fare, voir dire is the first time attorneys for both sides will have an opportunity to evaluate the men and women who will decide the case.

It also provides an opportunity for defence and government lawyers to subtly preview their respective cases through their questions.

The seasoned prosecutors and defence lawyers will not just be listening for answers but also be assessing juror body language and other behavioralindicating symptoms of bias.

The first thing the judge will do in voir dire is Preview the charges to the courtroom filled with prospective jurors.

The judge will explain that the indictment alleges that SBF and his co-conspirators defrauded FTX customers and investors and conspired to launder the proceeds of the fraud.

The court will explain that SBF has seven criminal charges, including wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, securities fraud, and commodities fraud, against FTX customers and investors and Alameda lenders.

The indictment also charges SBF with money laundering conspiracy and attempting to hide the proceeds of the fraud.

Of these charges, only two - wire fraud on FTX customers and Alameda lenders - are substantial, meaning prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that SBF himself actively engaged in the criminal activity.

The remaining five charges are conspiracy charges, which requires the government to prove that SBF planned to commit the crime with at least one other person.

In the Department of Justice's proposed jury questions, the Justice Department asks the court to explain to the jury that 'there is no need to prove that the crime or crimes... actually were committed', while the substantive charges are not.

The judge will again repeat this point in his jury instructions at the end of the trial.

While this all sounds very complicated, prosecutors will likely try to simplify things by presenting evidence that SBF and his co-conspirators intended to commit a massive fraud on customers and investors.

If the government is able to prove the fraud, they are likely to meet their burden on most or all counts.

SBF's lawyers will contend that while SBF was sloppy and incompetent, he did not have the criminal intent to defraud customers and investors.

Defense counsel will argue that SBF took various actions 'on advice of counsel,' which could potentially obviate criminal intent.

And this is all expected on just one day.

Over the next few weeks - don't make plans for November - we will see opening statements, hear from myriad witnesses, and be presented with millions of pages of evidence, recordings, and testimony from SBF's inner circle.

Even nine months and 20 days from arrest and about 11 months from the collapse of FTX, this case has moved at unprecedented speed. We will see whether the trial progresses as quickly as expected.