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SAN JOSE, Calif .– The fifth week of the trial of Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of blood testing startup Theranos, offered only brief dramatic moments amid long periods of technical boredom.
Ms Holmes is fighting 12 counts of fraud for her role in turning Theranos into a $ 9 billion business that collapsed when it was revealed her blood tests had not worked. She pleaded not guilty; if found guilty, she faces up to 20 years in prison.
Ms Holmes’ reputation as a tech and business prodigy – and intense interest in her downfall – turned the trial into a media spectacle. But a month later, the details of the case, which hinge on whether Ms Holmes intended to mislead investors, began to drag on.
While the trial typically takes place three days a week, Friday’s session has been canceled for Columbus Day. Here are the takeaways of the week.
Adam Rosendorff, who was the director of the Theranos laboratory in 2013 and 2014, testified for six days on highly technical elements of the inner workings of the company. Jurors’ eyes marveled during detailed discussions of Immulite reagents, Advia machines, Immunoassays, Vacutainers, and an array of acronyms like QC (quality control) and HCG (a hormonal test).
Even the generally reserved and patrician Judge Edward Davila hinted at the exasperation as lawyers on both sides argued over whether Dr Rosendorff could be questioned about investigations into the companies he worked for after Theranos. The defense had already had four days to dig holes in Dr Rosendorff’s testimony, Judge Davila said.
Despite the boredom, Dr. Rosendorff’s testimony was essential to the prosecution case. He described repeated cases of irregular and inaccurate results in Theranos’ blood tests, which he said made him uncomfortable and ultimately drove him to leave. He said he left because he “wanted to join a reputable company whose mission I believed in.”
Lance Wade, an attorney for Ms Holmes, attacked Dr Rosendorff’s testimony by confusing this account. When Mr Wade noted that Theranos’ initial offerings were just a ‘soft start’ for friends and family, downplaying any issues with blood tests, Dr Rosendorff did not flinch. âThey are patients,â he said.
âIt was a smooth launch for friends and family,â Mr. Wade repeated.
âIt was a patient launch,â said Dr Rosendorff.
Elizabeth Holmes, the disgraced founder of blood testing startup Theranos, is on trial on two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 10 counts of wire fraud.
Here are some of the key figures of the case â
The jurors are overwhelmed.
On Wednesday morning, before the proceedings, Judge Davila called a juror into the courtroom to discuss Buddhism. The juror, an older Asian woman, said she was increasingly upset by the lawsuit. Her Buddhist practice centers on love and forgiveness, she said, and it would be difficult for her to vote to condemn Ms. Holmes. The juror said she couldn’t follow the judge’s instructions to avoid thinking about the punishment.
“What if she was to be in there for a very, very long time,” she said, her voice breaking. The juror said she would blame herself.
Lawyers on both sides agreed to fire her.
The replacement juror, a young woman, had her own concerns. English was not her mother tongue, she says. âThis is her future,â she said of Mrs. Holmes. “I could make a mistake.”
The juror said she had understood all the procedures so far. Judge Davila did not allow her to leave.
Keeping the jury together is an important part of the four-month trial. In the first week, a juror was fired after learning that her job would not pay her for her absence. Every day, Judge Davila asked jurors if they had been exposed to media coverage that could influence their perspective.
The pandemic is also a risk. Even though all jurors are vaccinated and wear masks, a day of trial has already been called off due to a juror’s potential exposure to the coronavirus.
There are three substitute jurors left.
The former CEO of Safeway began his testimony.
Steve Burd, the former chief executive of Safeway, on Wednesday began telling the story of Safeway’s partnership with Theranos, which ultimately fell apart.
Mr Burd met Ms Holmes in 2011 and was immediately impressed. He described the promises she made about Theranos’ technology, testifying that he was excited to bring quick and inexpensive blood tests to Safeway’s grocery stores. People could shop while they waited for their results and collected their prescriptions from pharmacies in Safeway, he said.
The companies have reached a deal for Safeway to pay up to $ 85 million into Theranos by investing, purchasing its equipment and more. The negotiations were all conducted directly with Ms Holmes in the absence of a lawyer, a move Mr Burd said he found “unusual”.
His testimony continues next week.