Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes' trial: Defense, prosecution spar over what should be included

Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes' trial: Defense, prosecution spar over what should be included

Pregnant Elizabeth Holmes arrives at court

Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes makes her first court appearance in over a year.

Embattled Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes will continue to appear in court this week for a series of hearings related to her upcoming federal trial on charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. 

Holmes, who is pregnant, is scheduled to face trial in August 2021 on 11 counts for alleged crimes committed surrounding her health care tech startup, Theranos. Prosecutors allege that she and Theranos’ former chief operating officer Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani duped the public, investors and policymakers by leading them to believe the blood-testing technology was more accurate than it actually was.

Both have pleaded not guilty.

During Tuesday's pre-trial motion hearing, Holmes' attorneys and prosecutors sparred over what should and should not be included in the trial, according to The Wall Street Journal. Such concerns have already been laid out in court papers over the course of several months. 

It was Holmes' first physical court appearance in more than a year. She wore a light-colored jacket, a coronavirus face mask, a dark skirt and tights.

Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of Theranos, left, leaves the Robert F. Peckham Federal Building in downtown San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday, May 4, 2021.  (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group via AP)

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Holmes’ attorneys have argued repeatedly in court papers that details of their client’s "wealth, spending and lifestyle" should be kept away from jurors. But prosecutors have said Holmes’ "desire to retain her wealth and status created a powerful motive for Defendant to continue and conceal her fraud," past court documents show. 

Defense attorneys have called prosecutors’ arguments "inaccurate," as well as "irrelevant and highly inflammatory."

In another instance, prosecutors and the defense team butted heads over evidence that either went missing or was destroyed. 

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Prosecutors claimed as part of their Northern District of California case that Theranos "destroyed" its Laboratory Information System, or LIS, database and, in turn, a slew of potential evidence. But Holmes’ attorneys argued that the government doesn’t have the evidence "because the prosecutors sat on their hands for years before attempting to acquire it, and then sat on their hands against after acquiring it."

Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of Theranos, left, leaves the Robert F. Peckham Federal Building with her defense team in downtown San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday, May 4, 2021.  (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group via AP)

Defense attorneys have also asked the court to exclude at trial any evidence of anecdotal test results, arguing that the any blood test can give incorrect results "for reasons having nothing to do with a defect in Theranos’ technology."

Holmes dropped out of Stanford University at 19 to found Theranos in 2003, pitching its technology as a cheaper way to run dozens of blood tests with just a prick of a finger and a few droplets of blood.

A notoriously secretive company, Theranos shared very little about its blood-testing machine with the public or medical community. Holmes said she was inspired to start the company in response to her fear of needles.

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She carefully crafted her image as well, wearing almost entirely black turtleneck sweaters that earned her the moniker in Silicon Valley as "the next Steve Jobs."

Investors bought what Holmes was selling and invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the company. At one time, Theranos was worth more than $10 billion and Holmes the nation’s youngest self-made female billionaire.

Elizabeth Holmes; Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani. (Reuters / Getty Images)

But an investigation by The Wall Street Journal in 2015 found that Theranos’ technology was inaccurate at best, and that the company was using routine blood-testing equipment for the vast majority of its tests. The story raised concerns about the accuracy of Theranos’ blood testing technology, which put patients at risk of having conditions either misdiagnosed or ignored.

The Journal’s investigation marked the beginning of the end of Theranos. Walgreens ended its blood-testing partnership with the company, and the Department of Health and Human Services effectively banned Theranos in 2016 from doing any blood testing work at all.

Forbes reported in 2015 that Holmes, who was once considered the nation’s youngest female billionaire, boasted an estimated net worth of $4.5 billion. But the empire she built and the fortune she amassed swiftly crumbled.

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In late 2016, Theranos began shutting down its clinical labs and wellness centers and laid off more than 40% of its full-time employees. The company reportedly ceased operations in September 2018.

Holmes forfeited control of the blood-testing startup in 2018, when she agreed to pay $500,000 to settle charges that she oversaw a "massive fraud."

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Holmes is expected to be back in the San Jose courtroom at 9 a.m. PT Wednesday and on Thursday. 

Fox News’ Brittany De Lea and Michael Lundin contributed to this report, as well as The Associated Press. 

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