First, a word from the sponsor — me:
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And now for my blog:
The wheels of justice turn slowly, but the trial of Theranos founder, Elizabeth Holmes, is finally about to start. I wrote about Theranos on my first substantive blog in May 2019. By then, the company had fallen apart, the founder disgraced, a best-selling book about it had been published, and the debacle had attracted a whole lot of attention.
Charges were brought up against Holmes, but the story was then quickly relegated to the back pages of most newspapers. After a multitude of delays, the trial is dragging her back into the news. Reasons for postponement of her day of reckoning included (but were not limited to) COVID-19 concerns and Holmes’s pregnancy. Her deferral tactics ran their course, and as I write this, the jury for her trial is being selected.
The defendant has pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, related to her misleading of both patients and investors. It doesn’t appear she will be held accountable for the physical or psychological harm done to people who suffered because of bogus lab results from her company. A handful of affected patients will probably be allowed to share their stories only minimally, as harm to them will not be considered in this trial. Only the financial losses of investors appear to be important in this case.
Some justice for the victims of erroneous lab results may be obtained sometime in the future, as a class action lawsuit has been filed. With the company bankrupt, however, it does not appear likely the plaintiffs will receive significant monetary awards, so the patients harmed by the Theranos con will remain the real losers.
Opening statements in the current legal proceedings are expected soon, and the trial is anticipated to last around three months. If convicted, Holmes could face twenty years in prison and a fine. Strangely, it appears her defense will rely mainly on a claim that she was in an abusive relationship with her onetime partner and boyfriend, Sunny Balwani. Balwani will be separately tried for his part in the fraud, probably early next year.
Holmes is claiming Balwani misled her and somehow forced her to lie about the company, bilking investors and endangering patients who relied on the results. If that is her defense, she will essentially admit to all the lies but claim her participation wasn’t her fault. I can’t help but wonder if she had a baby to garner sympathy from the jurors and intends to perform a sad song on a violin during closing arguments.
I don’t believe in our jury system (that’s a whole other topic for discussion), but I would want to be on this jury if I did. I would likely be disqualified because I’ve already made up my mind regarding her guilt. This trial isn’t likely to gain the attention of the O.J. trial, but it will be interesting. News organizations will be drawn to it like moths to a flame, with a host of well-known people, including Henry Kissinger and General James Mattis, expected to testify.
To me, one of the most interesting aspects of this whole fiasco is why a bunch of supposedly intelligent people invested so heavily in a company without consulting credible clinical scientists or pathologists, the experts in the field (being a pathologist myself, the overt lameness of the whole idea of the company is striking to me). I have little compassion for them, but I do have sympathy for all the patients that were tested using this faulty technology and suffered because of it.
My prediction? She will enter into a plea agreement, possibly one where she avoids any jail time at all. I hope I’m wrong.