SAN JOSE, Calif .– Jurors in the Elizabeth Holmes criminal fraud trial told the judge on Monday they were deadlocked on three of the 11 charges against the founder of Theranos, but will continue their deliberations after receiving the order not to rush their decisions.
The news of the standoff is the most significant development in the jury room as deliberations continue for a seventh day in the Holmes case. The trial lasted four months – much longer than originally planned – with little information coming from the jury room since deliberations began before Christmas.
The jury’s note did not specify on which charges they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict. Holmes faces two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, as well as nine counts of wire fraud. Each charge of fraud carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. It was not clear whether the jury agreed on the other eight counts.
Prosecutor Robert Leach asked Judge Edward Davila to read the court’s standard deadlock instructions to jurors, amended to note that the standoff only involved three counts rather than the whole case. Holmes lawyer Kevin Downey has raised concerns that the instructions could put inappropriate pressure on jurors.
Davila read the deadlocked jury instructions, which tell jurors that they “should not hesitate to reexamine their own views and change their minds if you become persuaded that it is false,” but also that they should not “change an honest belief” based solely on “the advice of your fellow jurors or for the sole purpose of reaching a verdict”.
“What I just said is not intended to rush you or force you to agree on a verdict,” Davila added. “Take as much time as you need to discuss things. There is no emergency.”
Holmes, who sat upright during the courtroom discussions over the jury’s note, stared at the jury members as they stepped out to resume deliberations on his fate. Afterwards, she kissed and whispered with her partner Billy Evans, who is the father of her baby, then with her mother Noel and father Christian.
Startup founder accused of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from investors and misleading patients by claiming her blood testing company could perform all tests in a large lab with just a few drops blood from a finger, although Theranos’ machines could actually only perform a dozen tests and suffered from serious accuracy issues.
During their deliberation, jurors will have to go through more than 900 pieces of evidence and the testimonies of 32 witnesses. Given the length of the trial and the complexity of the case, neither the length of deliberations nor the inability of the jurors to agree on all the charges came as a surprise to lawyer Steven Clark, former Santa Clara County District Attorney. “It is not unusual in larger cases with many counts of having suspended juries on many counts,” Clark said.
Clark noted that the jury only asked the judge two questions in the first six days of deliberation, which he said suggested jurors worked well together, and that defense and prosecution lawyers presented their arguments clearly.
“The judges are very careful not to tinker with the jury and try to force them to make a decision,” said Clark. “It can be a way of appeal if it’s too aggressive.”
Federal attorneys have portrayed Holmes as a reckless fame-seeking schemer whose “lying and cheating for money” robbed investors and threatened the health of patients. Her defense team, meanwhile, portrayed Holmes as a true believer in Theranos technology who trusted others in the company too much but “worked herself to the bone” to keep her promises.
A parade of investors said Holmes told them his technology was being used on military helicopters, after the jury heard from Theranos insider Daniel Edlin, who spent five years at the company in managerial positions close to Holmes, which he was unaware of. the company’s technology being used clinically in war zones or military aircraft. Former US Secretary of State for Defense James Mattis, an investor who served on Theranos’ board of directors with former US Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and the late George Shultz, said he was not aware that the US Department of Defense was using Theranos machines.
Investors also said that Theranos sent them reports they believed were from pharmaceutical giants validating Theranos’ technology in glowing terms, when they were in fact created by Theranos and sported stolen logos of drug companies.
Holmes’ team of 10 lawyers sought to take it away from lab operations and underscore the sophistication of the firm’s investors. And in a twist that has defied mainstream legal convention, Holmes herself has spoken as a lead witness for her defense.
For seven days at the helm, Holmes blamed others, especially the lab directors and his ex-lover, Theranos’ former COO Sunny Balwani, for problems with the technology, while also voicing regretting some of her actions and acknowledging that she was ultimately responsible. for what happened in his company.
Balwani will be tried on the same set of fraud charges next year.