Schemer or Naïf? Elizabeth Holmes Is Going to Trial.

SAN FRANCISCO — After 4 years, repeated delays and the delivery of her child, Elizabeth Holmes, the founding father of the blood testing start-up Theranos, is about to face trial for fraud, capping a saga of Silicon Valley hubris, ambition and deception.

Jury choice begins on Tuesday in federal courtroom in San Jose, Calif., adopted by opening arguments subsequent week. Ms. Holmes, whose trial is anticipated to final three to 4 months, is battling 12 counts of fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud over false claims she made about Theranos’s blood assessments and enterprise.

In 2018, the Division of Justice indicted each her and her enterprise companion and onetime boyfriend, Ramesh Balwani, often known as Sunny, with the fees. Mr. Balwani’s trial will start early subsequent 12 months. Each have pleaded not responsible.

Ms. Holmes’s case has been held up as a parable of Silicon Valley’s swashbuckling “pretend it until you make it” tradition, which has helped propel the area’s start-ups to unfathomable riches and financial energy. That very same spirit has additionally allowed grifters and unethical hustlers to flourish, often with little consequence, raising questions about Silicon Valley’s tightening grip on society.

But the trial will ultimately be about one individual. And the central question will be whether Ms. Holmes was a deceptive schemer driven by greed and power, or a naïf who believed her own lies and was manipulated by Mr. Balwani.

The case hinges on Ms. Holmes’s knowledge of the problems with Theranos’s blood testing devices. Her lawyers could argue that she was merely the start-up’s public face while Mr. Balwani and others handled the technology, legal experts said. They could make the case that the sophisticated investors who backed Ms. Holmes should have done better research on Theranos. And they could say that Ms. Holmes was simply following Silicon Valley’s norms of exaggeration in service of an ambitious mission.

Last year, Judge Edward Davila of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California agreed to separate Ms. Holmes’s and Mr. Balwani’s cases. The move was unusual for such cases, legal experts said, and allows the pair to blame each other with no ability to respond.

In sealed court filings from 2020 that were made public over the weekend, Ms. Holmes said that her relationship with Mr. Balwani had a “pattern of abuse and coercive control.” The filings said Ms. Holmes’s lawyers might introduce expert testimony on her mental state and the effects of the alleged abuse. Mr. Balwani’s lawyers denied the accusations in a filing.

Her high profile presents a challenge in finding jurors who have not formed opinions about her or the case. Jury members filled out a 28-page questionnaire outlining their media consumption, medical experiences and whether they have heard of Ms. Holmes or seen her TED Talk. About half of the more than 200 potential jurors had consumed media related to the case, according to a court filing last week.

It is unclear whether Ms. Holmes will take the stand to defend herself. As Theranos’s chief executive and chairwoman, she was persuasive and inspiring. She fiercely defended Theranos and dismissed any criticism as a sign that the company was changing the world.

But if Ms. Holmes takes the stand, prosecutors could use past statements to hurt her credibility. In a Securities and Exchange Commission deposition in 2017, she responded to questions by saying “I don’t know” at least 600 times.

“It will be hard for her to say, ‘I remember it this way,’ when she said ‘I don’t know’ so many times,” said John C. Coffee Jr., a professor at Columbia Law School who is not involved in the case. “That is the most damaging evidence against her.”

By the time the United States indicted Ms. Holmes in 2018, the once high-flying Theranos was all but dead.

Ms. Holmes founded the start-up at age 19 in 2003 and dropped out of Stanford soon after. She hired Mr. Balwani in 2009 and raised more than $700 million from investors, valuing Theranos at $9 billion. The Palo Alto, Calif., company struck deals with Walgreens and Safeway to offer its blood testing in their stores. It also attracted dignitaries, senators and generals — including George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, William Frist and James Mattis — to its board of directors.

“We’ve reinvented the traditional laboratory infrastructure,” Ms. Holmes said at a 2014 conference. “It eliminates the need for people to have needles stuck in their arm.”

Ms. Holmes’s lawyers have since repeatedly pushed for delays to the trial. They have sought to have evidence excluded and witnesses blocked. And they have argued over other details, such as whether Ms. Holmes must wear a mask during the proceedings.

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