Elizabeth Holmes, the founder and former CEO of blood testing and life sciences company Theranos, arrives for the first day of jury selection in her fraud trial, outside Federal Court in San Jose, California on August 31, 2021.
Nick Otto | AFP | Getty Images
SAN JOSE, CALIF. – A jury of seven men and five women will decide the fate of Theranos founder and ex-CEO Elizabeth Holmes.
The 12-person panel from Santa Clara County, where Theranos was based, was selected after two days of intense questioning regarding their knowledge of the failed blood-testing company. If convicted, Holmes could face 20 years in prison
Prosecutors and defense attorneys settled on a diverse set of jurors with regards to race, gender and age. Along with five alternates — two men and three women — the jurors were sworn in Thursday morning at the San Jose federal courthouse. Opening statements are set to begin on Wednesday.
Holmes, who was a paper billionaire based on her stake in Theranos, faces a dozen counts of wire fraud and conspiracy charges for allegedly defrauding investors and patients about her company’s technology. She has pleaded not guilty and denies any wrongdoing.
Holmes dropped out of Stanford in 2003 to start Theranos at age 19. She raised billions of dollars from investors such as media mogul Rupert Murdoch, former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the Walton family. Some investors are expected to testify at the trial.
The company’s downfall began in 2015, when former Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou published a series of damning articles exposing Theranos’ dubious business practices and technology limitations.
Throughout jury questioning, U.S. District Court Judge Edward Davila, who’s presiding over the trial, reminded potential jurors about the importance of avoiding media, a particular challenge for a case that’s attracted heavy coverage in Silicon Valley and around the world.
One juror, an older white man, said “oh boy” after his name was called out to join the jury box.
“Let’s be clear, they know the media is interested in this case,” Davila told the courtroom on Wednesday. He repeatedly told the jurors to “turn off those news feeds.”
The two days of jury selection were tense and dramatic at times with dozens of potential jurors admitting they had prior knowledge of Holmes and Theranos. Some even expressed their disappointment in learning of Holmes’ spectacular fall from grace.
“There’s not that many women that get to become CEO of a high-powered company,” one potential female juror, who had read Carreyrou’s book, “Bad Blood,” told Davila on Tuesday.
Another potential male juror said he followed Theranos during its rise and admitted he “was disappointed because I thought the company was so cool.”
Some of those questioned even became emotional while sharing harrowing experiences of domestic violence. That was after newly unsealed documents revealed Holmes’ plans to have an expert testify that Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, her ex-boyfriend and former COO of Theranos, subjected her to intimate partner abuse.
Balwani denies the allegations. He will be tried separately for his role in the Theranos scandal.