Jury chosen for Elizabeth Holmes trial

Trial of disgraced Theranos founder is one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent fraud cases

A jury of 12 residents of northern California and five alternates was sworn in Thursday for the fraud trial of Elizabeth Holmes, the disgraced founder of blood testing startup Theranos, which is set to begin next week. The jury consists of seven men and five women. For two days, Judge Edward Davila of US District Court for the Northern District of California, federal prosecutors and Holmes' defence lawyers questioned roughly 100 potential jurors over their answers to a 28-page questionnaire that spanned topics including what news outlets they read, whether they knew any potential witnesses and whether they have had negative medical experiences.

The jury will decide the fate of Ms Holmes, who is battling 12 counts of fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud over false claims she made about Theranos’ blood tests and business. Her trial is one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent fraud cases and a public fascination with Ms Holmes has spawned documentaries, a book and a miniseries starring Amanda Seyfried.

Finding jurors who had never heard of Theranos, which collapsed in 2018 after reports that its blood-testing technology did not work as advertised, was a challenge. One potential juror said she went down a "YouTube rabbit hole" of videos about Holmes. Another said she had seen a social media meme about Holmes' voice – Ms Holmes appeared to have deepened her voice at times – something that contributed to her cult of personality and the interest in her downfall.

Scheduling was another issue. The trial is set to last 13 weeks or longer. Some jurors were dismissed because they had upcoming surgeries or long-awaited vacations. Others were excused because they were teachers with no one to fill in for them.


Domestic abuse was a significant topic of discussion. Ms Holmes’ lawyers have indicated that she is likely to argue that she was abused and controlled by her business partner, Ramesh Balwani, known as Sunny, whom she also dated. Balwani also faces fraud charges. When Davila asked if any jurors had been exposed to domestic abuse Wednesday, roughly half of them raised their hands and shared stories that they said could sway their views of the evidence and testimonies.

Another potential juror worked on a whistleblower program for law enforcement. Theranos was felled, in part, by two young employees who reported issues with the company’s tests to government agencies and the press. Still another prospective juror was dismissed for bias because his mother-in-law went to prison for embezzlement.

On Wednesday, the prosecution argued that five of the potential jurors that Ms Holmes' lawyers had proposed to dismiss for hardship were people of colour. Ms Holmes' lawyers denied any racial profiling of jurors. On Thursday, lawyers for each side agreed on a jury within an hour, passing a list of jurors between them as each side used their allotted "challenges" to eliminate jurors of their choosing. – This article originally appeared in The New York Times