Biotech and Pharma

'Is he stupid or crazy?' More potential jurors bounced from Shkreli trial after showing strong bias

Key Points
  • So far, no jurors have been seated in Martin Shkreli's securities fraud trial.
  • A number of would-be jurors have shown strong bias against him.
  • Shkreli's history of raising a drug price by 5,000 percent has been mentioned repeatedly during jury selection.
Jury selected for Martin Shkreli case

A man who angrily suggested he wanted to punch notorious ex-pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli was excused with several other would-be jurors for obvious bias from Shkreli's securities fraud trial Wednesday.

"I don't really like this person," said the potential juror to a judge, as he stood not far from where Shkreli, who could not hear him, was sitting in Brooklyn, New York, federal court.

"I can't understand why someone would take a medication that people need and jack up the price," said the man, who grew increasingly agitated as he told Judge Kiyo Matsumoto, prosecutors and defense lawyers why he could not be a fair juror.

"I would just go over there," said the man, clenching his hands into fists, and turning toward Shrekli, indicating he would like to punch him.

Matsumoto motioned at the man, who was shaking in rage by that point, to try to calm him as he spoke at a sidebar conference that included a pool press reporter.

"I'm sorry, judge," the man said. "Is he stupid or crazy? I don't understand."

The man was then dismissed as a would-be juror during a morning session that featured about 70 people being questioned for the jury, only nine of whom remained as candidates by the end of the session.

Most of those dismissed had conflicts unrelated to opinions about Shkreli, such as planned vacations or other commitments.

By midday, a pool of 60 candidates, which includes people screened on Monday and Tuesday, had been assembled. More than 300 people were questioned to reach the 60-person pool. That number will be winnowed down to 12 jurors and six alternates.

Shkreli is accused of ripping off his publicly traded drug company Retrophin out of millions of dollars while serving as CEO to repay investors he allegedly defrauded at two hedge funds he ran. He has pleaded not guilty.

'Is he stupid or crazy?' More potential jurors bounced from Shkreli trial after showing strong bias

His history of raising the price of a medication called Daraprim by more than 5,000 percent in 2015 while serving as CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals is not part of his criminal case. But a number of prospective jurors over the course of three days of jury selection this week have expressed anger or concern about that price hike.

And even if they did not specifically mention drug prices, several others quickly revealed negative views of Shkreli, 34, when the judge asked if they had a problem with giving him a fair trial.

"In this particular case, the only thing I'd be impartial about is which prison he goes to," said a man in his 30s, who was among those excused.

Another young man said, "Just looking at him kind of twists my stomach, to be honest."

A third man said, "I can't say if he's like totally guilty."

"He's probably guilty," the man added. "No way can I let him slide out of anything. That's my attitude toward his whole demeanor."

"And he disrespected the Wu-Tang Clan, so ... ," the man said, referring to one of the odder chapters of Shkreli's often-odd story.

Shkreli several years ago purchased, for $2 million, a single-copy album by the hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan, and then engaged in an online feud with a member of the group after that member criticized him for raising the price of Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 per pill.

Matsumoto interrupted the would-be juror when he mentioned the Wu-Tang Clan and then dismissed him.

Trouble seating a jury in 'Pharma Bro' Martin Shkreli securities fraud trial

Also bounced were people who called Shkreli "unethical," a man who said "I have real moral problems with the pharmaceuticals industry," another who said "I have no sympathy for a defendant like this," and a man who angrily said patients could not afford their drugs.

One woman was excused as a juror after telling Matsumoto her husband was on a list of targets by the terror group ISIS.

The judge hopes to seat the entire 12 member jury, and its six alternates, by the end of Wednesday, and then have them hear opening arguments.

She has told candidates that the trial will last at most six weeks, which is double the length originally estimated by lawyers.

One prospective juror quipped to her, "Looking at all of these lawyers, I think it's going to be more than a six-week trial."