Elizabeth Holmes criminal fraud case starts today with jury selection

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Jury selection begins today in the criminal case against Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, who’s accused of defrauding investors and patients through her once-hyped blood-testing startup.

Prosecutors and lawyers for Holmes will have to narrow a pool of nearly 200 prospective jurors to 12 who will decide her fate in a case that could potentially land her in federal prison for years. The dozen jurors and five alternates will sit for a closely watched trial expected to last as long as four months.

Jury selection has been a hotly contested matter in the run-up to the trial of Elizabeth Holmes, the subject of a new Yahoo Finance documentary “Valley of Hype.”

Watch Yahoo Finance’s new Elizabeth Holmes documentary here

Elizabeth Holmes, founder and former CEO of Theranos, leaves after motion hearing on Monday, November 4, 2019, at the U.S. District Court House inside Robert F. Peckham Federal Building in San Jose, California. (Photo by Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Holmes’ defense attorneys have raised concerns of a media-tainted jury, given the intense coverage of her fall as one of Silicon Valley’s promising entrepreneurs. The judge overseeing the case has allowed the defense to ask jury pool members about their consumption of news from specific media outlets, as well as from specific journalists who closely covered Theranos’ demise.

The list names Wall Street Journal reporter, John Carreyrou, who in 2015 exposed that the blood-testing company couldn’t run the breadth of diagnostic tests it promoted. That list also includes Carreyrou’s 2018 book on the company, “Bad Blood,” the HBO documentary “The Inventor,” and ABC’s podcast “The Dropout.” 

Jurors will also be asked if they viewed a TED Talk by Theranos whistleblower Erika Cheung. The list also includes “Thicker than Water,” an audio book by Tyler Shultz, another Theranos whistleblower whose grandfather, former Secretary of State George Shultz, sat on Theranos’ board.

Twenty-nine jury pool members questioned before the pool was narrowed said they had consumed all or part of at least one of the works. Fifteen others indicated they had watched some or all of a program, but could not specifically identify which one. Twenty-seven said they had been exposed to other media related to Holmes.

CNBC EVENTS -- Pictured: Elizabeth Holmes, Founder and CEO, Theranos speaks at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting, in New York City on September 29, 2015 -- (Photo by: Adam Jeffery/CNBC/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

Elizabeth Holmes, Founder and CEO of Theranos, speaks at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting, in New York City on September 29, 2015 (Photo by: Adam Jeffery/CNBC/NBCU via Getty Images)

Holmes, 37, once proclaimed the youngest female self-made billionaire, faces six counts of federal wire fraud against investors and four counts of wire fraud against patients, along with one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud against investors and patients.

In all, Holmes raised about $900 million for the diagnostics company. Prosecutors reference approximately $155 million in transactions in their charges that allege wire fraud against Theranos investors. Another $1.1 million is referenced in their charges alleging wire fraud against patients, based on advertisements that the company paid for to promote its tests.

A central question at trial will be whether Holmes and her ex-boyfriend and co-defendant, former Theranos president and COO, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, used Theranos to intentionally defraud private investors into backing the venture, and intentionally defraud patients into purchasing unreliable blood tests.

On Saturday, unsealed court documents showed Holmes may introduce expert testimony as to whether she was a victim of psychological and physical abuse in her relationship with Balwani, claims that Balwani has denied. According to the documents, Balwani’s alleged abuse included control over what she ate, how she dressed, and how long she slept, as well as monitoring her phone calls, texts, and emails, and throwing hard objects towards her.

Opening statements are scheduled for Sept. 8.

“Valley of Hype” is also streaming on YouTube

Alexis Keenan is a legal reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow Alexis on Twitter @alexiskweed.

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