‘He was born this way’, Shkreli case becomes circus

pharmafile | June 29, 2017 | News story | Medical Communications Martin Shkreli, Shkreli, Turing Pharmaceutical, turing 

Martin Shkreli’s Attorney, Benjamin Brafman, defended his client in a bizarre reference to a pop singer, “As Lady Gaga would say: He was born this way”. It is a fittingly surreal description to add to a case that, only its third day, begins to descend into a Monty Python sketch.

For instance, how does the court solve a problem where jurors are unable to mask their disdain for ‘pharma bro’, Martin Shkreli? The answer seemed to be: keep bringing them in. 250 potential jurors had to be interviewed and dismissed on the grounds that they did not have an impartial opinion of him before settling the juror question.

Shkreli’s Attorney called for a mistrial, a request which was denied. He also asked for reporters to be unable to report on potential juror’s comments on Shkreli, also denied.

The case is being presided over by District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto, who told jurors that the trial “promises to be interesting and educational.” For former is certainly true so far, as both prosecution and defence are vying to paint the more seductive portrayal of Shkreli, as opposed to debating his actual actions.

The prosecution has referred to him as a ‘con man’ while the defence has called him an ‘odd duck’; for many, he has become, as one potential juror pointed out, ‘the face of corporate greed’.

The actual case against him states that he took money from Retrophin, a pharmaceutical company where he held the role of CEO, to repay investors’ money that had been lost through the hedge fund MSMB Capital Management.

This does not prevent his more widely-known behaviour as CEO of Turing Pharmaceutical from coming up in the trial – not least because it seems increasingly unlikely that potential jurors will not have heard about his behaviour, at this time. He became infamous after raising the price of Daraprim by 5,000%, a medication that is used as a HIV/AIDS treatment.

With wild characters descriptions being thrown around and jurors weighing in with their witticisms (a particular highlight, “The only thing I would be impartial about is which prison he goes to”), the circus looks set to continue for the six weeks it is predicted to run for.

Ben Hargreaves

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