Elizabeth Holmes jurors hear different views on her fall – Daily Bulletin
By MICHAEL LIEDTKE
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) – Jurors in the case of former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes heard radically different interpretations of her motives and actions on Thursday as her long-standing criminal trial nears finishing line.
A federal prosecutor introduced Holmes as a desperate con artist who brazenly lied to get rich, while her lawyer described her as a well-meaning entrepreneur who never stopped trying to perfect Theranos’ blood testing technology and to keep its promise to improve health care.
The closing arguments are the final act in a three-month-old lawsuit over allegations that Holmes fooled investors, business partners and patients into believing Theranos had invented a more humane, faster way and cheaper to test blood. The case could be handed over to the jury on Friday.
Prosecutor Jeff Schenk opened his case by painting a sordid portrayal of once Silicon Valley billionaire Holmes – on paper – now trying to avoid a fraud conviction that could lead to a 20-year prison sentence.
As he methodically walked the jury through the testimony of the 29 government-called witnesses, Schenk stressed that Holmes had a critical choice to make on several occasions during his 15-year reign as head of Theranos. Holmes might have recognized some troubling flaws in Theranos’ blood testing technology, Schenk argued, but instead covered them up as part of her quest for fame and fortune.
“She chose fraud over business failure,” Schenk told the jury at the start of a three-hour presentation. “She chose to be dishonest. This choice was not only insensitive; it was criminal.
Holmes’ attorney Kevin Downey was quick to deny the claim when he had his turn to influence the jury.
“Elizabeth Holmes was building a business, not a criminal enterprise,” Downey said before trying to convince the jury that the federal government had presented a distorted snapshot of her relationship to Theranos.
Instead of relying on needles to draw vials of blood from a vein, Holmes spent years promising that Theranos would be able to search for hundreds of illnesses and other health issues with just a few drops of blood taken. with a prick on the finger.
It was such a compelling concept that Theranos raised over $ 900 million, entered into partnerships with major retailers Walgreens and Safeway, and made Elizabeth Holmes the subject of cover stories in business magazines.
But unknown to most people outside of Theranos, the company’s blood testing technology was flawed, often producing inaccurate results that could have endangered the lives of patients who took the tests at Walgreens stores.
After the loopholes were exposed in 2015 and 2016, Theranos finally collapsed and the Justice Department filed a criminal complaint in 2018 that indicted Holmes on 11 counts of fraud and conspiracy.
As Schenk argued for the conviction, Holmes scrutinized both the prosecutor and jurors across a crowded courtroom in San Jose, California. A few feet away from her, Holmes ‘mother and current partner, Billy Evans, sat in the front row and listened intently, as did Holmes’ father, who had never been to the trial in the presence of the jury.
Schenk occasionally played tapes of separate conversations Holmes had with a group of Theranos investors in December 2013 and with a Fortune magazine reporter in May 2014. In both tapes Holmes makes a series of inaccurate and exaggerated comments about Theranos’ technology capabilities and claimed contracts with the U.S. military that never materialized.
In other evidence presented by Schenk, Holmes has distorted the scope and outlook of the partnerships Theranos is said to have made with Walgreens and major drugmakers such as Pfizer.
“You should find her guilty, but you shouldn’t find her guilty because of my words,” Schenk said. “You should find her guilty because of her words. “
In her presentation, Downey urged jurors to carefully review the evidence comprising over 900 exhibits to get a more complete picture and understanding of what she was trying to do. He pointed to the contracts Theranos had with several drug companies that the government failed to mention during its case as an example of the half-baked story he said prosecutors presented.
The prosecution has focused on a series of events at Theranos that “look bad, but at the end of the day when all the evidence comes together it’s not that bad,” Downey said.
Downey also stressed that the jury had to be convinced “beyond a reasonable step” to find Holmes guilty on any count. To illustrate the difficulty of this challenge, he displayed a graph showing the seven steps to be taken before reaching that threshold.
The verdict could depend on the jury’s reaction to Holmes’ seven days of testifying in his own defense. During a particularly crucial two hours on the stand, Holmes told the court she was raped as a freshman at Stanford University before dropping out in 2003 to found Theranos at the age of 19 years old.
Around the same time, Holmes said, she became embroiled in a long love affair with successful tech executive Sunny Balwani, who ultimately became the COO of Theranos as the couple secretly lived together. During this time, Holmes said, Balwani was in control of everything from her diet to her friendships, while subjecting her to mental, emotional and sexual abuse that she said affected her judgment as CEO of Theranos.
Balwani’s attorney categorically denied Holmes’ claims, but the jury at his trial never heard from Balwani, who intended to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination had he been called to testify. He faces a separate trial on similar fraud charges in February.
Schenk urged the jury to ignore the revelations about Holmes’ abuse as an irrelevant attempt to build sympathy.
“If you hand down a guilty verdict, you’re not saying you don’t believe his abuse allegations,” Schenk said.
Pleadings are expected to end on Friday, setting the stage for the jury’s deliberations to finally begin.