Final arguments in the Elizabeth Holmes fraud trial were due to end on Friday, bringing the months-long saga closer to a verdict.
Ms Holmes, who founded blood testing start-up Theranos, is on trial for stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from investors and misleading patients and doctors. Theranos rose to prominence, reaching a valuation of $ 9 billion, before collapsing in 2018 after it was revealed that the company’s blood tests had not worked as Ms. Holmes.
Once pleadings are completed and the jury’s instructions given, the jurors – eight men and four women – will begin to determine whether Ms Holmes has committed 11 counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Ms Holmes has pleaded not guilty. If found guilty, she faces up to 20 years in prison, which could send shock waves through the freewheeling world of Silicon Valley start-ups.
Prosecutors on Thursday summed up more than three months of testimony in their closing arguments while refuting some points made by lawyers for Ms Holmes. The government did not disagree with Ms Holmes’ argument that corporate bankruptcy, per se, was not a crime, said Jeffrey Schenk, deputy US attorney and senior prosecutor in the case . But when Theranos was strapped for cash in 2009 and 2010, “she chose fraud over business failure,” he said.
Mr Schenk also addressed Ms Holmes’ accusations of abuse against her former business partner and boyfriend, Ramesh Balwani, known as Sunny. Ms Holmes’ emotional testimony about the abusive and domineering nature of their relationship was a separate issue from the fraud case, Ms Schenk said.
“The case concerns false statements made to investors and false statements made to patients,” he said. “You don’t need to wonder if this abuse has taken place.”
Kevin Downey, an attorney for Ms Holmes, also delivered the first two hours of his final defense, reiterating a key point his side has repeatedly emphasized: The situation is far more complicated than prosecutors have led it to believe.
Mr. Downey gave examples of where he felt the government evidence did not tell the whole story. Several slides referred to “missing witnesses” who had not been called by the government and others analyzed the intricacies of Ms. Holmes’ understanding of the word “correctness”.
“The government is showing an event that looks bad, but at the end of the day when all the evidence accumulates, it’s not that bad,” Mr. Downey said.
While injecting a level of confusion into the government’s narrative, Mr Downey also stressed that jurors need to be sure to convict. He showed an image of a staircase with eight steps leading “beyond a reasonable doubt”, which jurors must reach to return a guilty verdict. The first step, which represented guilt, was not labeled.
Friday’s proceedings were to begin with further statements from Mr Downey, followed by detailed jury instructions from Northern District Judge Edward Davila.