Potential jurors describe Elon Musk as 'talented but crazy'

The Tesla CEO might take the stand in this trial.
Ameya Paleja
Elon Musk
Elon Musk

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Crazy, genius, arrogant, narcissistic, and talented were among the words potential jurors used to describe Elon Musk as a federal courthouse began the process of selecting a jury for a class-action lawsuit against him, Ars Technica reported. The descriptions were written in response to a questionnaire distributed among the jurors to determine if they were biased against him.

The world is clearly split about Elon Musk, with some hardcore fans describing him as the man who will save the planet while others have nothing positive to say about him. Both groups of people can lead to a biased trial in a judiciary setup such as one in the U.S., where jurors decide whether a person is guilty or not.

Attorneys from both sides present their versions of the case and try to convince the jury that an individual is innocent or guilty. However, to decide this, a juror must be able to make impartial judgments based on the facts presented in the court. The questionnaire was therefore circulated to understand the biases of potential jurors for the case.

Why is Elon Musk facing a class action lawsuit?

Musk is facing a lawsuit due to tweets he sent out in 2018, where he said that he had "secured" funding to take his electric vehicle (EV) maker company, Tesla, private.

Less than three weeks later, Musk went back on his plans, but during this time, prices of Tesla stock dipped, and investors who sold their stock suffered losses due to a decision that was never executed. Later the stock price soared again.

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Glen Littleton is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, which is seeking billions of dollars in damages after he had to hurriedly sell his holdings in Tesla at a loss after Musk's tweets. The lawsuit also alleges that Musk lied about taking Tesla private, something that the company's lawyers disagree with.

Alex Spiro, Musk's lawyer, however, told the court that Musk was serious about taking the company private but encountered shareholder opposition, Sky News reported. Claiming that Musk's actions were not even close to fraud, Spiro added that the Tesla CEO's tweet had "technical inaccuracies" and "used wrong words" in a rush.

Can Elon Musk get a fair trial?

The jury of nine members is tasked to find out if Musk's tweets were aimed at artificially inflating Tesla's stock price and, if yes, by how much. Judge Edward Chen has already ruled that Musk recklessly made false statements on Twitter. The judge also denied a request by Musk's lawyer to move the case to Texas since jurors in California would be biased against his billionaire client.

Musk's lawyers said that the Tesla CEO was receiving negative media coverage as a result of job cuts he had instituted at his recently acquired company Twitter, which is based in San Francisco.

One of the jurors agreed that his opinion of Musk had become more negative since the Twitter acquisition but said that would not stand in the way of him acting fair. Other potential jurors also cited Musk's decision to keep Tesla factories open in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic as reasons for their negative opinion. But they also said they would be fair and not let their opinions cloud their judgment in the trial.

A total of 52 people were summoned for jury selection, and the 10-day trial will proceed after the jury members are appointed. The trial could see Elon Musk take the stand as well.