(Bloomberg) -- Martin Shkreli’s criminal fraud trial jury hasn’t been selected yet and already the brash pharmaceutical executive tried to get the case thrown out of court and lashed out at reporters covering his case.
Once in court, Shkreli’s lawyer Benjamin Brafman said the current jury pool was tainted, citing media coverage of the negative opinions prospective jurors expressed about his client during questioning on Monday. The New York Post’s front page carried the headline “Jury of his Jeers.”
While scores of people were dismissed from jury service Monday for various reasons, including work conflicts and vacations, about a dozen expressed bias against Shkreli. One young woman called him “an evil man,” another said he looked like a “snake” and a third said she knew he’d been labeled “the most hated man in America.”
Brafman asked U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto in Brooklyn, New York, to dismiss the current pool of jurors, saying they were tarnished by the bad publicity, and asked to restart the trial in a few weeks.
“I understand Mr. Shkreli, God bless him, has brought this notoriety upon himself,” Brafman told the judge. Nevertheless, Shkreli has the right to have jurors who aren’t biased, he said. “This jury has been unfairly tainted.” To buttress his argument, Brafman read from news accounts as Shkreli smiled, jutted out his jaw and hammed it up.
While Matsumoto rejected Brafman’s request, she later asked potential jurors if they’d seen those accounts. Four people said yes and were later excused.
The judge questioned more than 100 people, and at the end of court directed 47 prospective jurors to return Wednesday. She’s also ordered a new panel of about 150 to court to continue the selection process and said opening statements could begin Thursday morning.
By requesting a mistrial, Brafman is now free to raise the issue of a tainted jury on appeal, should Shkreli be convicted.
Shkreli, the 34-year-old founder of Retrophin Inc. and Turing Pharmaceuticals AG, is accused of defrauding investors in two hedge funds and using $11 million of Retrophin assets to pay them off.
He bought the domain names “to raise money for my debut album ‘God’s Gift: The Album,”’ he said in the Facebook post. “I bought these domains for $12 -- you can have them for $12,000.” He then typed “Tryna to get that Future feature doe.” It’s not clear what he meant by that.
In a pre-trial hearing last week, prosecutor Alixandra Smith noted that while Shkreli complained that he had no money, he was still buying up domain names of reporters who cover him.
Shkreli is notorious for having raised the price of a potentially life-saving drug by 5,000 percent. He’s also been an active on social media. He has live-streamed his daily activities and was an active user of Twitter until he was banned for harassing a female reporter.
During questioning of would-be jurors Tuesday, Shkreli’s life online was a recurrent theme. One young man in his 20s told the judge that he’d seen some of Shkreli’s comments on social media and was later dismissed. Outside of the man’s presence, Brafman complained to the judge that Shkreli’s Twitter commentary “is probably the most prejudicial part” of his client’s personae. “Unfortunately, this Twitter history is just horrific and would never be allowed into this courtroom.”
When Matsumoto finally encountered a woman in her 20s who said she hadn’t heard of Shkreli or his case, she seemed delighted.
“Oh, very good,” she said, allowing the woman to remain as a prospective juror.
The case is U.S. v. Shkreli, 15-cr-00637, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).