Dozens of potential jurors lower due to potential bias in Elizabeth Holmes’ trial

Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes leaves the Robert F. Peckham Federal Building with her defense team in downtown San Jose, California on Tuesday, May 4, 2021.

Nhat V. Meyer | MediaNews Group | The Mercury News via Getty Images

SAN JOSE, CALIF. The pool of potential jurors in the criminal fraud case against embattled Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes was reduced Wednesday after her attorneys and federal prosecutors found some were biased, according to completed questionnaires.

“Thirty to forty of the remaining jurors have used significant, and I mean extensive, extrajudicial material on the case and the defendant,” Holmes attorney Kevin Downey told the judge. “We are very susceptible to any comments from the jury as either the court or the lawyers take very seriously the content of the media they have seen.”

Voir dire is the legal name for the preliminary examination of jurors.

Holmes appeared in court when her defense lawyers renewed their motion to question potential jurors individually. Dozens of jurors have been dismissed from potential prejudice, hardship, and health or language problems.

Defense attorneys identified more than 30 jurors who they say have faced “long-term adverse publicity” regarding Theranos.

“Less than half of the people who filled out the questionnaire had previous contact with Holmes and Balwani,” said US Assistant Attorney Jeffrey Schenk, referring to Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, the former COO of Theranos, who was also indicted will. “A juror who says something that could be overheard during the voir dire trial is a risk in any trial.”

Holmes attorneys have previously raised concerns about widespread “inflammatory” media coverage and asked the court to expand the selection of the jury. In a previous lawsuit, attorneys conducted an extensive search of news articles and other media that generated 462,000 entries. These included 3,755 results from “Negative Personal News” and 2,862 results from “Negative Business News”.

The other apologized juror included a person who said they “knew people who lost money” in Theranos. Another was interviewed for a job at Theranos and a third applied according to questionnaires.

Another excused juror sat on the grand jury of the 33-point indictment against Holmes and Balwani in 2017.

Holmes, who quit Stanford at 19 to start her own business to revolutionize healthcare, was once dubbed Silicon Valley’s next big thing. Their spectacular rise collapsed in 2018 when an investigation by the Wall Street Journal found Theranos technology was not working.

Holmes and Balwani each face dozens of phone frauds and conspiracies. Both pleaded not guilty and denied any wrongdoing.

The selection of the jury begins on Tuesday. Judge Edward Davila said he plans to call 50 potential jurors simultaneously and hold three separate sessions voir dire.

“Finding implicit prejudices could be a fruitless search,” Davila said, admitting the defense attorney’s concerns. “We’ll do our best to make sure these jurors in this courtroom are only focused on the universe of evidence.”

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