Jurors said they were caught on three of 11 charges in the trial of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, as deliberations continued for an eighth day in one of Silicon Valley’s most high-profile criminal fraud cases.
Judge Edward Davila, chairing the trial in a federal court building in San Jose, California, ordered the jurors to continue deliberating and trying to reach a verdict, according to U.S. news reports.
The development was the latest twist in a months-long trial that has put some legal observers as a key litmus test of the legal system’s ability to prosecute alleged fraud at Silicon Valley starters.
Holmes is facing 11 charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud at Theranos, the blood testing company. She pleaded not guilty to the charges, each carrying up to 20 years in prison.
Jurors sent a note on Monday in which they said they could not reach a unanimous verdict on three charges, but did not provide further details on what charges they were stuck with.
The Holmes trial sparked spectators from the tech industry and sparked a debate across the boundaries of Silicon Valley’s start-up culture at a time when venture capital is flowing in at a record pace.
Holmes, now 37, founded Theranos in 2003 after leaving Stanford University. At its peak, the company was valued at $ 9 billion while its founder became a media favorite profiled in several magazine cover articles.
But Theranos would face an avalanche of critical media reports and regulatory investigations, sending the company into a swing and leading to its disintegration in 2018.
Holmes claimed Theranos’ technology could perform a wide range of tests with just a few drops of blood, although the company relied heavily on commercially available machines.
The trial focused largely on whether Holmes intended to defraud investors in her company.
Prosecutors presented heaps of documentary evidence and testimony from 29 witnesses, which set off problems at Theranos’ laboratories and the company’s alleged evasive communication with investors.
The evidence provided the most detailed account to date of how Theranos operated, revealing several cases in which Holmes apparently promoted misleading information.
Holmes admitted that she posted the logos of pharmaceutical groups including Pfizer on Theranos documents she sent to investors, even though they did not endorse the company’s technology.
“She chose fraud over business failure,” prosecutor Jeff Schenk said during closing arguments. “She chose to be dishonest. This choice was not only callous; it was criminal. “
The defense team tried to get Holmes as a serious entrepreneur who failed to deliver on promises to transform the blood test industry. They also tried to shift the blame to others at Theranos, including Ramesh Balwani, who oversaw the company’s finances as its president and chief operating officer.
Testimony in her own defense, Holmes Balwani, with whom she had a romantic relationship, accused of mental and sexual abuse, allegations his lawyer had previously denied.
“Elizabeth Holmes built a business and not a criminal business,” said Kevin Downey, her attorney at Williams & Connolly, during closing arguments.