Former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes is leaving a status hearing on her upcoming fraud trial.
SAN JOSE, CALIF. – Elizabeth Holmes ‘attorneys on Monday demanded that they question jurors about bias and exposure to Holmes’ “profession and notoriety” when jury selection begins in their criminal fraud trial later this month.
“If there are instances where a jury is influenced by things like fame, either a witness, or the defendant’s occupation or position in a community, you should warn against it.” Amy Saharia, a Holmes lawyer, told the judge. “It is no surprise, Your Honor, that our customer is the subject of very intensive media monitoring.”
The defense attorneys asked that the jury also be warned of bias in relation to the high-profile list of witnesses in the context of questions to potential jurors.
“There will be a number of Witnesses who have achieved significant success in their profession, in their community, or are internationally known,” said Saharia.
A number of recognizable business and political figures are expected to testify, including former Theranos board members and investors such as Henry Kissinger, Rupert Murdoch and James Mattis.
In connection with Theranos, the startup she founded in 2003, Holmes has faced dozens of wire transfer fraud and wire transfer conspiracies. Federal prosecutors say Holmes and her COO Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani cheated investors and patients out of Theranos’ technology. Neither of them pleaded guilty.
“I think it’s unnecessary to add your honor,” said Robert Leach, a US assistant attorney, about the defense, occupation, and celebrity status request. “It’s repetitive and argumentative.”
It was the first time in a year and six months that the media had been allowed to enter the San Jose courtroom for a hearing related to Holmes’ case.
Holmes, who gave birth to her first child last month, sat on the right side of the courtroom across from the judge, who appeared from behind plexiglass. Defenders also expressed concern about what they call “high media coverage” that Holmes is facing.
They suggest adding instructions to the questionnaire asking potential judges about their use of social media, especially Reddit, with a warning that doing so could result in a possible failure.
“The jury must take proactive steps in this case to avoid exposure to the media,” said Saharia. “We think very strong media warnings are critical.”
The government said adding Reddit to the jury questionnaire was “unnecessary but not objectionable”.
The potential jurors, who Davila said have been summoned from across California, including San Benito County, may be asked about their vaccination status.
Davila announced that he plans to take a break every two hours and complete the hearings at 2 p.m. each day.
“Because of the length and duration of this trial, the jury is becoming tired,” Davila said. “I want the jury to feel like they’re not in closed captivity all the time.”
Davila added that there will be additional air filters in his courtroom and three to five seats will be reserved for Holmes.
“We anticipate that some family members and friends of Ms. Holmes will want to attend,” said Holmes’ attorney Kevin Downey.
According to the court, the gallery offers space for around 60 spectators, and an overflow room is to be set up for another 40.
The court told CNBC that around 15 to 20 seats in the courtroom will be reserved for the press.
After two hours, Holmes left the courthouse, flanked by her lawyers. She ignored questions from CNBC too whether she feels prepared for her trial.
The selection of the jury begins on August 31st. Davila said he assumed it would take two days.