Elizabeth Holmes Rests Her Case in Fraud Trial
Lawyers must now agree on a set of jury instructions before closing arguments begin on Dec. 16.,
Elizabeth Holmes Rests Her Case in Fraud Trial
- Dec. 8, 2021Updated 4:10 p.m. ET
SAN JOSE, Calif. — It lasted less than three weeks, centered on one person’s testimony and spanned topics such as financial projections, private jets, falsified documents and intimate-partner abuse.
On Wednesday, lawyers for Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of the blood testing start-up Theranos, concluded their defense in her fraud trial. She was the final witness and, after seven days on the stand, ended her testimony abruptly on a question about justice.
“You understand they were entitled to truthful answers about Theranos’s capabilities?” asked Robert Leach, an assistant U.S. attorney and a lead prosecutor, referring to the company’s investors and patients, who are at the heart of the fraud charges.
“Of course,” Ms. Holmes said.
The end of her defense marked the final stages of a trial that has lasted nearly four months and captivated the public as a referendum on Silicon Valley’s start-up culture. Ms. Holmes, 37, faces 11 counts of fraud related to claims she made to investors and patients about Theranos, which collapsed in scandal in 2018.
Next, lawyers from both sides must agree on a set of jury instructions before delivering their closing arguments, which will begin Dec. 16. Then the jury will begin deliberations for a verdict in the case, which stands out because so few technology executives face criminal fraud charges.
Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor and the president of the West Coast Trial Lawyers, said the pace of Ms. Holmes’s trial was sluggish. It is unusual to wait more than a week between the end of testimony and the start of closing arguments, he said.
“It’s one of the slowest trials I’ve ever heard of,” he said.
Elizabeth Holmes, the disgraced founder of the blood testing start-up Theranos, stands trial for two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and nine counts of wire fraud.
Here are some of the key figures in the case ->
Ms. Holmes’s testimony made up the bulk of her defense. For seven days, she pointed blame at others for the failure of Theranos and its blood testing technology. She said that her words were misconstrued and that she had believed Theranos devices worked. She said she had concealed certain information about Theranos because it was a trade secret. And she focused on Ramesh Balwani, her ex-boyfriend and business partner, who she said was responsible for overstated financial projections and problems in Theranos’s lab.
Mr. Balwani, who is known as Sunny and is roughly two decades older than she is, was also controlling and abusive, Ms. Holmes testified. He had prescribed her schedule, diet, self-presentation and whom she could see, she said. He also forced her to have sex with him, she said.
When asked how that had affected her work at Theranos, Ms. Holmes said it was difficult to separate where his influence began and ended. In legal filings before the trial, Mr. Balwani strongly denied allegations of abuse.
But Ms. Holmes also acknowledged making mistakes. She said she regretted adding the logos of pharmaceutical companies to validation reports that she had sent out to investors, which led them to believe that the drug companies had endorsed Theranos’s technology. She said she also regretted the way she had handled a Wall Street Journal expose with private investigators and legal attacks on former employees who had spoken to the journalist. And she said she had allowed incorrect information to be disseminated in a positive Fortune cover article about her.
Ms. Holmes concluded a portion of her testimony with a speech about her intentions in pitching Theranos to investors, patients and the press.
“I wanted to convey the impact,” she said. “I wanted to talk about what this company could do a year from now, five years from now, 10 years from now. They weren’t interested in today or tomorrow or next month — they were interested in what kind of change we could make.”
It was all meant to support the defense’s main argument, as outlined in opening statements in September. Ms. Holmes, her lawyers said, made mistakes. But her mistakes were not a crime. She was naive and ambitious, they argued, but never meant to deceive.
“Theranos didn’t see mistakes as crimes. They saw them as part of the path to success,” Lance Wade, one of Ms. Holmes’s lawyers, said in his opening statement.
In their cross-examination, prosecutors sought to dismantle Ms. Holmes’s excuses. They noted that Theranos had shared plenty of other trade secrets with its partners, which signed nondisclosure agreements. Mr. Leach pointed out times when Ms. Holmes allowed false or misleading information about Theranos to spread to investors and patients.
Earlier in the trial, during testimony from 29 witnesses called by prosecutors, Ms. Holmes’s lawyers sought to poke holes and create confusion around the facts of the case. They attacked the credibility of investors, trying to show that they should have done better research on Theranos before investing to understand the risks and the details of its business. And they tried to argue that patients who testified that they had received troubling blood test results from Theranos were not qualified to interpret them.
Erin Woo contributed reporting.