Former Theranos chief faces 11 criminal charges, alleging she duped investors and patients over blood-testing technology

Elizabeth Holmes outside court in San Jose last week
Photograph: Peter Dasilva/Reuters

The jury weighing fraud charges against the former Theranos chief executive Elizabeth Holmes will start their second week of deliberations on Monday.

Holmes faces 11 criminal charges, alleging that she duped investors and patients by hailing her company’s blood-testing technology as a medical breakthrough when in fact it was prone to wild errors.

The eight men and four women on the jury have been meeting in a federal courthouse in San Jose, California, after absorbing reams of evidence during a high-profile trial that has captivated Silicon Valley over the course of more than 16 weeks.

The jurors deliberated for three days last week before adjourning for the Christmas weekend.

The case has attracted worldwide attention. At its core is the rise and fall of Holmes, who started Theranos as a 19-year-old college dropout and went on to break through Silicon Valley’s male-dominated culture with her bold claims and fundraising savvy.

She become a billionaire on paper before it all evaporated amid allegations she was more of a charlatan than an entrepreneur.

Holmes, now 37, spent seven days on the witness stand acknowledging she made mistakes and decisions she regretted while staunchly maintaining that she never stopped believing Theranos was on the verge of revolutionizing healthcare.

She also alleged on the stand that Sunny Balwani, her former boyfriend and business partner, abused her, implying that the abuse affected her decision making at the company. Holmes said he controlled who she spent time with, how she ran the business, and even what she ate. Balwani has denied these claims and faces his own fraud trial relating to Theranos in February 2022.

Holmes spent years promising Theranos would be able to scan for hundreds of diseases and other health problems with just a few drops of blood taken with a finger prick instead of relying on vials of blood drawn from a vein.

It was such a compelling concept that Theranos raised more than $900m and struck partnerships with large retailers Walgreens and Safeway. Holmes became the subject of cover stories in business magazines.

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But unknown to most people outside Theranos, the blood-testing technology was flawed, often producing inaccurate results that could have endangered the lives of patients.

After the flaws were exposed in 2015 and 2016, Theranos collapsed and the US justice department filed a criminal case in 2018 that charged Holmes with 11 felony counts of fraud and conspiracy. If convicted, Holmes could face up to 20 years in federal prison.

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