Tue. Dec 7th, 2021


Elizabeth Holmes, the Theranos founder accused by U.S. prosecutors of defrauding hundreds of millions of dollars from investors, took the stand on her own. criminal trial, and told jurors: “We thought it was a very big idea.”

The defense made the surprising move last week to call the 37-year-old to the stall, giving her the chance to defend herself against allegations that she lied about the capabilities of the alleged breakthrough Theranos blood test machine.

After an unexplained delay of more than an hour at the start of Monday’s proceedings, Holmes’ testimony focused on the formation days of Theranos, part of a defense strategy to convince the jury the young entrepreneur wholeheartedly believed the technology was ambitious but possible.

Defense attorney Kevin Downey let Holmes talk to the jury through various pictures and technical slides, at one point she used a computer mouse to point out individual components of an early Theranos machine.

One exhibit, a presentation slide apparently prepared by Ian Gibbons, then chief scientist at Theranos, set out several milestones that the team felt had been achieved. Gibbons took his own life in 2013, days before a statement in a patent lawsuit over the company’s technology.

“I took away that we had achieved the design goals for this system,” Holmes said of the presentation, speaking slowly in her distinctive low voice. “The system performed in a way that was excellent.”

In an apparent attempt to counter allegations that Theranos developed his technology in deep secrecy, the defense showed slides and documentation outlining research partnerships and peer-reviewed studies.

Several were under the heading “Completed successes”, with examples including work that took place at London’s Royal Marsden Hospital in collaboration with the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.

Holmes’ appearance on the stand in the federal court building in San Jose, California, will give the prosecution, who wants to paint a picture of her as a calculated liar, a chance to cross-examine Holmes – although that braai will probably take place first after the Thanksgiving break.

“She does not have to prove her innocence,” said Amanda Kramer, a former federal prosecutor who is a partner at Covington & Burling. “She just has to create reasonable doubt among the jurors.”

“The defendant’s answers regarding cross-examination, regardless of the degree of preparation, will naturally be more spontaneous, less prepared, less practiced,” Kramer said. Defendants testifying in their own trials are rare, she said, “because it’s so risky”.

Journalists and bystanders gathered outside the courtroom around 3 a.m. Monday. Holmes entered the court moments before 8 p.m.

In a brief appearance Friday, Holmes told the jury about the early days of Theranos’ creation when she was just 19 years old. At its peak, the company was valued at $ 9 billion, with Holmes owning about half.

Holmes was charged with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. She pleaded not guilty. If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

In addition to Holmes’ fate, observers suggested that the spirit of Silicon Valley themselves are tried, with questions about how accountable brave entrepreneurs should be if their ideas do not work out as intended.

“Trying and trying your best is not a crime,” Holmes lawyer Lance Wade said in opening arguments.

The trial began on August 31 in the U.S. federal government in San Jose, California, after being delayed by Covid-19 restrictions and Holmes’ pregnancy. She gave birth to a baby boy in July.

In 11 weeks, until it calmed down on Friday, the prosecution called 29 witnesses, including former U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who was a board member of Theranos and invested some of his money in the company.

With Holmes on the stand, the defense is expected to argue, as it has already done in court applications, that she was emotionally abused by Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, Theranos ‘chief operating officer and Holmes’ ex-boyfriend. Balwani’s lawyers denied the claims.

Holmes promised that Theranos could significantly reduce the cost and inconvenience of having blood drawn and analyzed.

The Theranos Edison machine was billed as a unit about the size of a personal computer that could take a small amount of blood through a “nanotainer” and perform more than 200 tests. The small, half-inch vial became a central prop for Holmes as his magazine covers and conference stages graced the globe.

Behind the scenes, however, the technology failed and according to the prosecution, Holmes and her staff began to disguise the company’s shortcomings by doctoring documents and finding out non-existent agreements and signatures with large groups, such as the US military.

Balwani will separately face his own trial on similar charges, which is likely to be next year. Before that, his legal team was trying to include a nullity number plate on Balwani’s car that read “DASKPTL”, a reference to Karl Marx’s The capital.

“Whether it was intended as a sincere tribute, a casual reference or an ironic joke, Mr Balwani’s license plate does not support any element of the charges that he was involved in a scheme to defraud people of money or other property, “wrote his lawyers in court. filing.



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