Elizabeth Holmes presents her case to the jury in the fraud trial
San Jose, California. Elizabeth Holmes, the one-time medical entrepreneur now tasked with building a fraudulent company on promises of revolutionary technology, returned to the witness stand on Monday.
Her testimony, focused largely on her enthusiasm based on positive early tests of that blood-testing technology, may be her best way to avoid conviction on criminal fraud charges. Prosecutors alleged that she deceived investors and patients into believing she had invented a breakthrough in blood-testing technology.
Monday’s proceedings resumed after a delay of nearly 90 minutes, with Holmes once again appearing at the witness stand in a cobalt dress with a black jacket. She spent most of her time describing clinical studies and other records extolling the efficacy of the tiny blood test device made by Theranos, a startup she founded in 2003 after leaving Stanford University at the age of 19.
US District Judge Edward Davila did not explain why he met with lawyers on both sides of the case behind closed doors while a disguised and confused audience sat in a crowded courtroom.
Holmes’ latest round of testimony came after her lawyers called her to the stand during the final hour of Friday’s proceedings in the most exciting moment of a high-profile trial that began in early September.
The anticipation of Holmes’ return to the podium on Monday drew a large crowd outside the courthouse in San Jose, California where the trial is taking place, with the first person lined up at about 1 a.m. PT. Among the 35 people who entered the small courtroom on Monday was one of Holmes’ biggest chips – former Wall Street Journal reporter John Carrillo, who wrote a series of explosive articles starting in October 2015 that led to the collapse of Theranos and the ensuing criminal case .
Answering friendly questions from one of her lawyers gives Holmes a chance to influence the jurors who will decide her fate. If convicted, Holmes, the 37-year-old former billionaire, could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.
After her attorney asked her to explain some technical terms about the blood test, Holmes looked directly at the jury seated a few feet to her right and delved into the subject as if she were a teacher addressing her students.
Having discarded the mask she had been wearing while sitting stoically during the trial, Holmes also smiled occasionally as she discussed the studies. She also attempted eye contact with the 14 jurors, including two alternates, as they walked out during the morning break and later at the conclusion of the day’s proceedings.
Studies, conducted with several major drug companies from 2008 to 2010, showed that a third-generation Theranos known as the Edison was producing mostly encouraging results, giving Holmes reason to believe that she and the company were on the path to success.
“The results were excellent,” one report said. Another concluded that “the results were accurate.”
Another exchange between Holmes and her attorney, Kevin Downey, confirmed the cautious tone in Monday’s testimony. Motivated by Downey, Holmes explained that she defined success as something that “successfully achieved the objective of the programme.”
The positive reports and Holmes’ testimony seem primarily intended to provide insight into Holmes’ state of mind in an effort to shed light on why she was ultimately so bummed about Theranos technology, which she promised would be able to survey hundreds of potential diseases and other ailments. Problems with a few drops of blood taken with a finger prick.
But by 2015, the director of the private Theranos lab concluded that the company’s technology was disrupting in ways that led to misleading results that could put patients at risk. Theranos ended up running tests on traditional blood screening devices while still raising hundreds of millions of billionaires and less experienced investors.
Other evidence presented at the trial showed that Holmes distributed misinformation in 2013 about an alleged partnership with Pfizer and other drug companies that helped Theranos raise money.
Having only spent about three hours on the platform so far, Holmes’ testimony is expected to eventually delve into a more interesting area.
Before the trial began, Holmes’ lawyers submitted documents indicating that she intended to blame any misconduct that occurred at Theranos on her former lover and the company’s former chief operating officer, Sunny Balwani. These documents assert that Balwani, who faces a separate criminal trial next year, manipulated Holmes through “intimate partner abuse.” Balwani’s lawyer criticized the allegations as baseless.
Holmes’ testimony will resume Tuesday morning and is expected to continue into next week.
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