Elizabeth Holmes’s Theranos Trial: What You Need to Know
Opening statements begin today.,
Few things have captured the public’s imagination in recent years like the saga of Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of the defunct blood-testing company Theranos.
The downfall of Holmes, a Stanford dropout and Silicon Valley darling, spawned not only wall-to-wall news coverage, but also a documentary, a book, a podcast and even a mini-series based on that podcast. Her tale offers something for everyone: clueless bigwig investors, wild false promises, black turtlenecks and — let’s be real — more than a small dose of schadenfreude.
This morning, the drama is set to continue with opening statements in Holmes’s trial in federal court in San Jose, my colleague Erin Griffith reports. Holmes has pleaded not guilty and would face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Here’s what you need to know:
So, remind me what happened?
Holmes started Theranos in 2003, when she was 19. The company was based in Palo Alto and promised to revolutionize health care by detecting diseases using a single drop of blood from a finger prick. At one point, it was valued at $9 billion.
But Holmes’s empire came tumbling down after a Wall Street Journal investigation in 2015 raised questions about whether Theranos’s technology actually worked. (It didn’t.)
In 2018, Theranos was dissolved. That same year, Holmes and Theranos’s former president, Ramesh Balwani, were indicted on charges of defrauding investors out of millions of dollars as well as deceiving hundreds of patients and doctors.
What is Holmes charged with?
Holmes has been charged with 12 counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. She has been accused of knowing that Theranos blood tests were unreliable, of harming patients who relied on them and of overstating the company’s business deals and performance.
Who is on the jury?
The jury consists of seven men and five women who live in Northern California. There are also five alternates.
The group was selected last week from a pool of 200 potential jurors. As you can imagine, finding people who had never heard of Theranos posed a challenge.
How long will the trial last?
The trial is expected to take at least 13 weeks.
What do we know about Holmes’s defense?
Though Holmes and Balwani were indicted together, a judge last year agreed to try them separately, my colleagues Erin Griffith and Erin Woo report. Balwani’s trial will begin early next year.
The move to separate their cases allows the pair to blame each other with no ability for the other to respond, legal experts say.
Holmes’s lawyers have indicated that she is likely to argue that she was abused and controlled by Balwani, her business partner whom she also dated. In sealed court filings made public last month, Holmes said her relationship with Balwani had a “pattern of abuse and coercive control.”
Holmes’s lawyers could argue that she didn’t know about the problems with Theranos’s blood-testing devices and was merely the start-up’s public face, while Balwani and others handled the technology.
As my colleagues wrote, “The central question will be whether Ms. Holmes was a deceptive schemer driven by greed and power, or a naif who believed her own lies and was manipulated by Mr. Balwani.”
Who will testify?
Patients who were wrongly diagnosed by Theranos tests are set to testify against Holmes, including some who had been told they were H.I.V. positive and a pregnant woman who was told she had miscarried, reported NPR.
The potential witness list names Holmes herself as well as 200 others, including:
John Carreyrou, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who broke the Theranos story
Rupert Murdoch, a media mogul who invested in the start-up
David Boies, a former Theranos lawyer
Henry Kissinger, a former secretary of state who sat on Theranos’s board
Jim Mattis, a former defense secretary who was also on Theranos’s board
Can I watch a livestream of the trial?
As far as we know, the trial won’t be streamed online. The audience will be limited to people in the courthouse.
But The Times will be publishing regular updates and you can follow along on Twitter with Erin Griffith (@eringriffith) and Erin Woo (@erinkwoo), Times reporters who will be in the courthouse over the next several weeks.
Holmes is living on the grounds of a $135 million Silicon Valley estate during the trial, CNBC reported on Tuesday.
Behind the spectacle of the trial is the reality that criminal prosecutions in Silicon Valley are rare. Read more from my colleague David Streitfeld.
Female entrepreneurs say they are constantly and unfairly compared to Holmes. Read more from The Times on Holmes’s long shadow in Silicon Valley.
The recall, T-minus six days
The election to decide whether to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom is in less than a week. I’ll be keeping you updated with the latest in the newsletter every day.
First, I’d recommend this important article from my colleagues Jenny Medina and Jill Cowan on Latinos in California, who have propelled Democratic victories here for decades but now appear to be ambivalent about the prospect of Newsom being ousted.
In addition, Davey Alba, a Times technology reporter, tackled some rumors that are going viral ahead of the election. This article answered a question I’d had: Why is there a hole in my ballot envelope?
Tell us what else you want to know about the recall. Email your questions to CAtoday@nytimes.com.
The rest of the news
Bidding wars in Berkeley: The housing market has roared back to life across the nation, but nowhere else in America do homes sell for more over the listed price than in Berkeley, where 80 percent of homes sell above the listed price. More from The Times.
Possible power outages: Californians have been asked to reduce their power usage today between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. to avoid rolling blackouts as above-average temperatures threaten the state’s electric grid, reports KTLA 5.
Women in office: Women make up nearly a third of the State Legislature, which is a record, reports The Associated Press.
Dixie fire: The fire that has burned more than 917,000 acres is well on its way to becoming the largest in California history, reports CNN.
Unemployment benefits end: About 2.2 million Californians lost their unemployment insurance benefits over the weekend, reports CalMatters.
Campaigning for Newsom: President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are headed to California to support Newsom’s effort to squash the recall, SFist reports.
New Medi-Cal program: Over the next five years, California will spend $6 billion in state and federal money to try to provide a slate of social services to the neediest Medi-Cal beneficiaries, including security deposits and deliveries of fruits and vegetables, reports The Los Angeles Times.
Reduced bail law: A new fight is brewing in the State Legislature over an alternative plan that would slash the amount arrestees must pay to get out of jail, according to The Los Angeles Times.
Printer toner fraud: The authorities say Gilbert Michaels, of West Los Angeles, preyed on tens of thousands of small businesses and charities by overcharging them for printer toner they didn’t need. On Friday, Michaels was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Orange County to four years in federal prison.
Overdose deaths: Three people died over the weekend in Venice after reportedly overdosing on fentanyl-laced cocaine. Those killed included the local standup comics Fuquan Johnson and Enrico Colangeli, reported CBSLA.
Slow rollout of rental aid: Six months after receiving $42 million for an emergency rental assistance program, Fresno has distributed only about $9.5 million to tenants and landlords, The Fresno Bee reports.
Substitute shortage: School administrators in Kern County say a shallow pool of substitute teachers has made the return to classrooms a struggle, according to The Bakersfield Californian.
Caldor fire: The huge blaze near the Lake Tahoe resort region was nearly half contained on Tuesday and leaders of the firefighting army battling it were increasingly positive in their outlook, The Associated Press reports. Plus, mandatory evacuation orders have been lifted for South Lake Tahoe, reports The Guardian.
Reduced lunchtime: In Windsor in Sonoma County, school officials have taken an unusual approach to reducing the number of students who need to be sent home because of exposure to the coronavirus.
Since students must be sent home if they are in close, unmasked contact with an infected person for 15 minutes or more, Windsor has reduced student lunch breaks to 14 minutes, The Press Democrat reports.
Main Street reopens: Pleasanton had closed off Main Street to cars for almost five months in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, a move that has benefited restaurants but not other businesses. On Tuesday, the street reopened to vehicle traffic and brought mixed feelings, NBC Bay Area reports.
What we’re eating
This Southern-inspired tossed salad contrasts bitter greens with plump peaches, piquant blue cheese and crispy cornbread crumbs.
Where we’re traveling
The Times’s Travel section recommends 36 hours in Santa Barbara County, a place that “could be a commercial for the California good life.”
And before you go, some good news
Hundreds of swimmers dove into 65-degree water on Monday during the annual Oceanside Pier Swim, a Labor Day tradition in San Diego County.
The race, which was canceled last year because of the pandemic, drew at least 400 competitors, the most in its 92-year history, reports The San Diego Union-Tribune.
The first person to complete the one-mile course around the Oceanside pier this year was Miko Baron, 15.
“The water was a bit chilly,” Baron told the newspaper, as she drip-dried in a yellow bathing suit. “I think that made me go faster because I wanted to get out of the water quickly.”
Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Word after second, Sunday or Seattle’s (4 letters).
Steven Moity and Briana Scalia contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.