Trial of SAC's Martoma begins with questions for potential jurors

Tue Jan 7, 2014 6:16pm EST
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By Nate Raymond

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Jury selection began on Tuesday in the trial of Mathew Martoma, a former portfolio manager at Steven A. Cohen's SAC Capital Advisors hedge fund, who is accused of engaging in the most lucrative insider trading scheme in U.S. history.

Court officials handed questionnaires to 80 potential jurors to determine their suitability to sit for more than three weeks in the high-profile trial in a federal court in New York.

Potential jurors were asked, among other things, about the extent to which they had read about Martoma's case or heard of Cohen and SAC.

U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe later Tuesday excused 26, after lawyers for Martoma detailed issues that could impact whether they could act fairly and impartially.

One excused juror wrote that Martoma was involved in "an unsavory and corrupt industry," said Richard Strassberg, Martoma's lawyer. Another excused juror expressed a "political bias against Wall Street, its practices and its excessive greed," he said.

Opening statements could come as early as Wednesday following further jury selection proceedings, Gardephe said.

Martoma, in a dark suit and blue tie, sat at a table with his lawyers during Tuesday's proceedings. He is accused of arranging trades in Elan Corp Plc and Wyeth based on confidential information supplied by two doctors involved in a clinical trial for an Alzheimer's drug. Wyeth is now a unit of Pfizer Inc.

Thanks to the trades, SAC Capital made profits and avoided losses of $276 million, according to an indictment against Martoma, which prosecutors have said is the most money ever made in a U.S. case brought over insider trading.   Continued...

Former SAC Capital portfolio manager Mathew Martoma (C) arrives at the Manhattan Federal Courthouse with his lawyer (L) and an unidentified woman in New York, January 7, 2014. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid