Jury Selection in Martin Shkreli Trial Begins With Name Calling

A man said both of his parents took Daraprim, a drug for a rare parasitic infection. Mr. Shkreli raised the drug’s price to $750 a tablet, from $13.50, overnight in 2015 while running Turing Pharmaceuticals.

“The price has been going up in the last few years, so they can’t afford their drugs,” the prospective juror said of his parents. “They’re struggling to pay” for their daily medical routine.

Further, the man said, he has several friends with H.I.V. or AIDS — people who may use Daraprim for infections — who cannot afford their drugs.

Another man told the judge, Kiyo A. Matsumoto, “This is the price gouger of drugs.” He added: “My kids are on some of these drugs. This impacts my kids.”

One woman mimicked throttling someone as she talked about Mr. Shkreli’s raising the price of “the AIDS drug.”

“Who does that?” she said. “A person that puts profit over everything else?”

When Judge Matsumoto told prospective jurors that Mr. Shkreli’s work in pharmaceuticals was not on trial, the prosecutor Alixandra Smith corrected her.

“If the defendant takes the stand and testifies,” she said, prosecutors may introduce some of his exploits in the pharmaceutical world, too.

Other potential jurors had bad reactions to Mr. Shkreli himself.

One said she had not known what the trial was about when she walked in and saw Mr. Shkreli. “I looked right at him, and in my head, I said, ‘That’s a snake’ — not knowing who he was,” the woman said.

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After the potential juror had stepped down, Benjamin Brafman, a lawyer for Mr. Shkreli, said, “So much for the presumption of innocence.”

The potential jurors were questioned at a sidebar with Judge Matsumoto, defense lawyers, prosecutors and one reporter from a news pool.

The negative comments built up to the point that Mr. Brafman began to signal to Judge Matsumoto when potential jurors had said enough that he could challenge them for cause, to stop them from going “on a tirade against Mr. Shkreli.”

He said that Mr. Shkreli’s lawyers had objected to a reporter’s presence at the sidebar for that reason, among others.

“I’m anticipating an article, a piece, that will further complicate the already complicated job of defending someone so many people feel strongly about,” he said.

One potential juror, a man in his 70s, told the judge that “you’d have to convince me he was innocent.”

“The defendant is the face of corporate greed in America,” the man said.

Judge Matsumoto said the judicial system started with a presumption of innocence.

“I understand that, but everything I’ve seen,” the man began, before Mr. Brafman signaled by lifting his hand that he was challenging the man for cause.

Only one potential juror seemed to side with Mr. Shkreli: a woman who said her former husband had a medical-supply business that dealt with the stock market. “I would never convict him,” she said.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers agreed to strike more than a dozen jurors for cause based on their opinions of Mr. Shkreli. Dozens more were dismissed for medical reasons or vacation plans. About two-thirds of roughly 90 prospective jurors questioned in the morning session were dismissed. Jury selection was expected to continue at least through Tuesday morning.

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