A jury of 12 Northern California residents and five deputies was sworn in on Thursday for the fraud trial against Elizabeth Holmes, the disgraced founder of blood testing startup Theranos, due to begin next week.
The jury consists of seven men and five women.
For two days, Judge Edward Davila of the US District Court for the Northern District of California, federal attorneys and Ms. Holmes’ defense attorneys interviewed around 100 potential jurors about their responses to a 28-page questionnaire that included the news outlets they had read they knew potential witnesses and whether they had any negative medical experiences.
The jury will determine the fate of Ms. Holmes, who battles 12 cases of fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud for making false claims about Theranos’ blood tests and business. Her trial is one of the most well-known Silicon Valley 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 wasn’t working as advertised, was a challenge.
A prospective juror said she walked into a “YouTube rabbit hole” with videos about Ms. Holmes. Another said she saw a social media meme about Ms. Holmes’ voice – Ms. Holmes seemed to have her voice deepened at times – something that added to her personality cult and interest in her demise.
Scheduling was another issue. The test phase should last 13 weeks or more. Some jurors have been dismissed because of upcoming surgeries or long-awaited vacations. Others were excused because they were teachers and no one could stand up for them.
Domestic violence was an important topic of discussion. Ms. Holmes’ attorneys have indicated that she will likely argue that she was abused and controlled by her business partner, Ramesh Balwani, known as Sunny, who she was also with. Mr Balwani also faces allegations of fraud. When Judge Davila asked Wednesday if juries had been exposed to domestic violence, about half of them raised their hands and shared stories they said could influence their views on the evidence and testimony.
Another potential juror was working on a law enforcement whistleblower program. Theranos was partially felled by two young employees who reported problems with the company’s testing to government agencies and the press. Another prospective juror was dismissed for bias because his mother-in-law was jailed for embezzlement.
On Wednesday, prosecutors argued that five of the potential jurors who sought to fire Ms. Holmes’ attorneys for hardship were black people. Ms. Holmes’ attorneys dismissed any racial profiling of juries.
On Thursday, attorneys on each side agreed on a jury within an hour and passed a list of jurors among themselves, while each side used its assigned “challenges” to eliminate the jury of its choice.