A jury on Monday began considering the merits of a fraud trial against Elizabeth Holmes, accusing the entrepreneur of lying to investors and patients about her blood testing start-up, Theranos.
Ms. Holmes’ trial lasted nearly four months, with testimony from dozens of witnesses including scientists, the chief executive officer and a four-star general. The action has come to represent a defining moment for the tech industry and a culture of overly optimistic salesmanship.
A jury of eight men and four women is debating whether prosecutors have shown beyond a reasonable doubt that Ms. Holmes has been charged with nine counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud while pitching Theranos to investors and patients. Completed two cases. Her former business partner and boyfriend, Ramesh Balwani was charged with her in 2018. Both have pleaded not guilty. Mr. Balwani will be tried next year.
The 11 counts each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, although most likely they will be served together. Discussions have been scheduled for Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.
Ms. Holmes’ case stands out for its rarity: Few tech executives have been accused of fraud, gone to prison fewer times and there are fewer women.
The case covers business deals spanning more than half a decade. Ms. Holmes founded Theranos in 2003, and the start-up raised $945 million from investors such as Rupert Murdoch, the family of former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and heir to the Walmart fortune. Theranos performed more than eight million blood tests on patients.
Ms. Holmes’ rise to top positions in the business world was covered breathlessly by the news media, as was her downfall. Theranos collapsed in 2018 after whistle-blowers exposed their problems to the Wall Street Journal and federal regulators. The saga was documented in popular books, podcasts and documentaries; Soon it will be shown in scripted shows on Hulu and Apple TV+.
During the trial, Ms. Holmes took a stand for seven days. It was the first time she had publicly told her side of the story. He admitted to making some mistakes and blamed coworkers for others. She cried accusing Mr. Balwani of emotional and sexual abuse. He has denied the allegations.
Last week, prosecutors and Ms Holmes’ lawyers summarized their points for the jury during an hour-long debate.
Ms. Holmes’ attorney, Kevin Downey, said she did not intentionally mislead investors and patients with her statements. He thought Theranos’ technology worked, Downey argued, and investors misunderstood the statements he made about what Theranos planned to do at the time in the future.
“She believed she was building a technology that would change the world,” he said.
Geoffrey Schenk, an assistant US attorney and a leading prosecutor, pointed to evidence that Ms Holmes knew Theranos’ tests had accuracy problems and that its business was failing. Ms. Holmes chose to keep the company alive by lying, he said.
“She chose fraud over business failure,” he said.