Pharma Bro, himself, Martin Shkreli — the character who garnered instant infamy for hiking the price of an anti-AIDS drug by 5,000-whopping-percent — landed convictions for three counts of fraud in a Manhattan federal court earlier this month, but getting to that point required attorneys to painstakingly select precisely the right jury.
But transcripts of the selection process published in the September issue of Harper’s Magazine suggest Americans have no intention of forgiving the man accused of profiteering from misery — and disrespecting the Wu-Tang Clan.
In fact, hostility toward the former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals immediately reared its head immediately, with the first prospective juror — and didn’t cease for three days as attorneys queried and dismissed more than 200 people apparently too biased or otherwise incapable of viewing Shkreli through a lens of neutrality.
Judge Kiyo Matsumoto oversaw the proceedings, and Benjamin Brafman represented the reviled opportunist — likely enduring an exhaustive test of patience — as one after another took the stand and made apparent the U.S. hasn’t yet softened its opinions on the man whose contemptible business strategies smacked of game-playing with people’s lives.
From the first person questioned, the task of selecting jurors appeared optimistically a Herculean task.
COURT: The purpose of jury selection is to ensure fairness and impartiality in this case. If you think that you could not be fair and impartial, it is your duty to tell me. All right. Juror Number 1.
JUROR NUMBER 1: I’m aware of the defendant and I hate him.
BRAFMAN: I’m sorry.
JUROR NUMBER 1: I think he’s a greedy little man.
COURT: Jurors are obligated to decide the case based only on the evidence. Do you agree?
JUROR NUMBER 1: I don’t know if I could. I wouldn’t want me on this jury.
Juror Number One was dismissed; as were a string of people lambasting Shkreli in similar sentiments as that of Juror Number 47, who — noting her elderly parents’ struggle to afford costly prescription medications — stated plainly:
“He’s the most hated man in America.”
Then, there was Juror Number 52, who earned the boot immediately after responding to the judge’s seemingly simple, “How are you?” with:
“When I walked in here today I looked at him, and in my head, that’s a snake — not knowing who he was. I just walked in and looked right at him and that’s a snake.”
“So much for the presumption of innocence,” quipped Brafman in response.
Juror Number 77 followed suit, telling the court of Shkreli immediately, “From everything I’ve seen on the news, everything I’ve read, I believe the defendant is the face of corporate greed in America.”
BRAFMAN: We would object.
JUROR NO. 77: You’d have to convince me he was innocent rather than guilty.
COURT: I will excuse this juror. Hello, Juror Number 125.
JUROR NO. 125: I’ve read extensively about Martin’s shameful past and his ripping off sick people and it hits close to me. I have a mother with epilepsy, a grandmother with Alzheimer’s, and a brother with multiple sclerosis. I think somebody that’s dealt in those things deserves to go to jail.
COURT: Just to be clear, he’s not being charged with anything relating to the pricing of pharmaceuticals.
JUROR NO. 125: I understand that, but I already sense the man is guilty.
Number 125 earned a dismissal, as did Number 28, whose heated rant the arbiter was forced to cut short after asserting,
“I don’t like this person at all. I just can’t understand why he would be so stupid as to take an antibiotic which H.I.V. people need and jack it up five thousand percent. I would honestly, like, seriously like to go over there —”
Juror Number 59, however — prior to getting the boot from Shkreli’s attorney — went down in history as having perhaps the most candid issuewith Pharma Bro.
JUROR NUMBER 59: Your Honor, totally he is guilty and in no way can I let him slide out of anything because —
COURT: Okay. Is that your attitude toward anyone charged with a crime who has not been proven guilty?
JUROR NUMBER 59: It’s my attitude toward his entire demeanor, what he has done to people.
COURT: All right. We are going to excuse you, sir.
JUROR NUMBER 59: And he disrespected the Wu-Tang Clan.
But it was Juror Number 10 who seemed to speak for most others livid with Shkreli for price gouging vital medications — or, perhaps, that whole Wu-Tang Clan issue — in stating flatly,
“The only thing I’d be impartial about is what prison this guy goes to.”