Closing arguments concluded Friday in the criminal fraud trial of former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes, with lawyers on both sides painting starkly different portraits of the once-lionized Silicon Valley entrepreneur who promised innovative blood-testing technology only to be accused of fabricating results and duping investors out of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Federal prosecutors called Holmes a desperate con artist who brazenly lied to make money. The defense countered by saying she was a misunderstood woman under the thumb of a controlling co-owner and ex-boyfriend who manipulated her at every turn.
The jury, comprised of eight men and four women, began deliberations after receiving instructions Friday.
Friday's closing arguments followed a three-month trial that centered on allegations Holmes conned investors, business partners, and countless patients into believing that Theranos invented a quicker, safer, and cheaper way to test blood. Instead of using needles to draw multiple vials of blood from a vein, Holmes falsely claimed Theranos had the technology to scan for hundreds of diseases and other health problems with just a few drops of blood taken from a finger prick.
The concept, which Holmes said came from her own fear of needles, was so compelling that Theranos raised more than $900 million and inked lucrative deals with Walgreens, Safeway, and drugmaker Pfizer. Holmes was heralded as a genius, and by 2015, Forbes had named her the youngest and wealthiest self-made female billionaire in America based on a $9 billion valuation of Theranos.
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Holmes, a Stanford University dropout who started her company at 19, was featured in countless cover stories and called "the next Steve Jobs" in reference to the late Apple co-founder.
Things started to take a turn when a Wall Street Journal investigation poked holes into Theranos's testing claims, and in 2018, Holmes and Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani, her former business partner and onetime boyfriend, were arrested. The Justice Department charged Holmes with 11 felony counts of fraud and conspiracy.
Both Holmes and Balwani have pleaded not guilty.
If convicted, Holmes could spend the next 20 years behind bars.
"She chose fraud over business failure," prosecutor Jeff Schenk said during his three-hour closing argument. "She chose to be dishonest. This choice was not only callous — it was criminal."
Schenk walked the jury through the testimony of 29 government witnesses and emphasized that Holmes could have come clean multiple times during her 15-year reign at Theranos but chose to keep quiet. He added that the former billionaire tried to cover up lie after lie in a greedy pursuit of fame and fortune.
Holmes's lawyer, Kevin Downey, accused prosecutors of presenting a distorted snapshot of his client.
"Elizabeth Holmes was building a business and not a criminal enterprise," he said.
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Downey told jurors to carefully go through evidence introduced during the trial, more than 900 exhibits, to get a more accurate picture of what Holmes was trying to do.
The prosecution focused on a series of events at Theranos that Downey said "look bad, but at the end of the day when all the evidence flows together, it isn't bad."
Downey added that there was evidence showing Holmes did not conceal the truth about her company's testing methods from regulators or her board of directors and that when a regulatory audit uncovered numerous issues with the lab, she proactively moved to have them addressed.
"You'll see that there's a lot of just innocent events, and only when you put on the government's lens and look through the government's eyes will you see some nefarious intent or bad conduct," he said.
Holmes spent seven days on the stand testifying in her own defense. She claimed she had been raped while she was a freshman at Stanford and dropped out as a result. Around the same time, she became involved with Balwani, who eventually became Theranos's chief operating officer while the couple was secretly together.
Holmes claimed Balwani controlled every aspect of her life from her diet to friendships. She also accused him of mental, emotional, and sexual abuse that she claimed affected her ability to effectively lead the company.
Balwani's attorney has vehemently denied Holmes's allegations.
Balwani faces a separate trial on similar fraud charges in February.
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During her trial, Holmes's mother and her current partner, Billy Evans, were often seen sitting in the front row listening. Her father, who hadn't previously attended the trial, was present during closing arguments.