Sam Bankman-Fried's Lawyers, DOJ Propose Final Sets of Jury Instructions

The parties to the criminal fraud trial expect to wrap up witness testimony in the coming weeks.

AccessTimeIconOct 19, 2023 at 10:38 p.m. UTC
Updated Oct 19, 2023 at 10:40 p.m. UTC
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Judge Lewis Kaplan, the federal judge overseeing the federal criminal case against Sam Bankman-Fried, has a decision to make.

The U.S. Department of Justice and Bankman-Fried's defense team filed their proposed jury instructions, which they hope Judge Kaplan will adopt after witness testimony wraps up in the coming weeks, early Thursday evening. The judge can adopt either proposal or find a happy medium when he instructs the jury on the laws surrounding the seven charges Bankman-Fried faces.

The filings contain some similarities, including requests that the judge address the indictment and explain the charges.

The respective teams of attorneys also included specific instructions tied to their own particular concerns about the case and how the jury may have heard different bits of testimony. Thursday's filings mark the final revised set of proposals, which the parties have been debating since before the trial itself began.

"A witness’s stated feeling or belief as to what the law should or should not have prohibited is not sufficient to convict anyone of any charge," the defense filing said. "You are to break it down to the elements, assess whether there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt as to each of those elements, and then, with that determination made, you can render a unanimous verdict."

Prosecutors, for their part, want to nip in the bud any argument that Bankman-Fried's actions around FTX and Alameda were tied to charitable giving, and they want the judge to make it clear to the jury that the DOJ is alleging Bankman-Fried took customer and investor funds, and misappropriated them for personal use.

"The defendant has in certain public statements emphasized his philosophy of so-called 'effective altruism' to argue that his business decisions were motivated by a desire to do good in the world," the DOJ's filing said. "Any such arguments are not a defense to fraud or other criminal charges, as courts have repeatedly recognized."

The defense filing suggested Kaplan delve into the concept of "property" and explain it "does not include intangible interests," a view the DOJ disagreed with explicitly.

The DOJ filing similarly argued that other proposed paragraphs in the defense filing are not actual defenses to the charges the prosecutors brought.

Courtroom proceedings went on hiatus Thursday and will resume in a week, on Oct. 26.

Edited by Marc Hochstein.


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Nikhilesh De

Nikhilesh De is CoinDesk's managing editor for global policy and regulation. He owns marginal amounts of bitcoin and ether.

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