SAN JOSE (CBS SF/CNN) — A diverse jury of seven men and five women was selected Thursday to determined the fate of Elizabeth Holmes, once a rising Silicon Valley star who tumbled from grace amid charges she defrauded investors and consumers after promises surrounding her company’s proprietary blood testing technology fell short.
Stanford law expert David Sklansky told KPIX 5 he expected the trial which will begin in earnest on September 8th with opening arguments next week to have many twists and turns.READ MORE: UPDATE: Thousands Forced To Flee Fawn Fire; New Evacuations Ordered South Of Shasta Lake
“This is gonna be a long trial, several weeks long,” he said. “It’s a complicated case with a lot of issues that touch on lots of hot button topics, so there’ll be surprises during the trial.”
Court documents have revealed that Holmes may claim the she was abused by her partner and former boyfriend Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani.
“It’s not a normal defense for a fraud defendant to be claiming domestic abuse,” Sklansky said. “But in this case, the court pleading suggests that Elizabeth Holmes will be arguing that because of the abuse that she suffered from her former boyfriend, who was the company’s chief operating officer, she lacked the intent to defraud people.”
Holmes’ attorneys, federal prosecutors and Judge Edward Davila questioned more than 80 potential jurors over the course of two days about everything from their consumption of media pertaining to Holmes, Theranos, and the trial to their feelings on law enforcement, and whether they or any loved ones have experienced domestic abuse.
Among those excused from the jury pool included a retired registered nurse married to a retired lab technician who was familiar with the company’s story; a person who worked at Safeway, a once partner to Theranos; another who said she was an attorney representing domestic violence survivors, who had listened to a podcast about the company with her husband, a scientist for a biotech company.
Holmes, who was present for both days of questioning as well as when the jury was selected, was indicted more than three years ago on a dozen federal fraud and conspiracy charges over allegations she knowingly misled investors, patients, and doctors about the capabilities of her company’s proprietary blood testing technology. She has pleaded not guilty and faces up to 20 years in prison.
The trial, which has been delayed several times due to the ongoing pandemic and further postponed due to the birth of Holmes’ first child in July, is expected to last roughly 13 weeks.READ MORE: PG&E Charged With Manslaughter For Sparking Wildfire That Killed 4
A deluge of media coverage of Holmes over the years, which has only ramped up ahead of her trial, was a significant concern in finding fair and impartial jurors. The many interwoven factors of the case, which touches on healthcare and technology, as well as allegations of intimate partner violence, also complicated the search for jurors who will ultimately determine Holmes’ fate.
In the company’s heyday, Holmes, 37, was the subject of much fascination.
A Stanford University dropout with a stated fear of needles, she founded Theranos in 2003 at age 19 to revolutionize blood testing. She’d raised hundreds of millions of dollars from high-profile individuals including media mogul Rupert Murdoch, Oracle founder Larry Ellison, Walmart’s Walton family, and former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
She was lauded on magazine covers as the richest self-made woman and “the next Steve Jobs,” an image she helped cultivate by dressing the part in her signature black turtleneck. At its peak, her startup was valued at $9 billion.
Her company’s downfall, spurred by reporter John Carreyrou’s 2015 investigation for the Wall Street Journal, hasn’t dimmed that spotlight — with documentaries, a forthcoming limited series, and a planned feature film to at least two podcasts devoted to covering the trial.
Ahead of jury selection, nearly 200 prospective jurors completed the 28-page-long final jury questionnaire. Roughly half indicated in their responses that they had consumed media concerning the case, according to a court filing last week.
Many, however, were brought in anyway and further questioned on the matter. One potential juror said she’d gone down a YouTube “rabbit hole” about Holmes and Theranos; another said he’d read “innumerable” articles about the company, acknowledging that he’d formed a strong opinion prior to being summoned for the trial. (Both were dismissed.)MORE NEWS: Three Charged With Allegedly Ripping Off $2 Million In EDD Unemployment Benefits
Balwani and Holmes were charged together but successfully pushed to be tried separately. His trial is set to begin in early 2022. (Balwani has also pleaded not guilty and according to a court filing he “adamantly denies” the abuse claims.) Members of Balwani’s defense team were present throughout jury selection.