Elizabeth Holmes May Use Surprise Defense

Bloomberg reports she's exploring 'mental disease or defect' argument
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 10, 2020 11:33 AM CDT
Elizabeth Holmes May Mount Insanity Defense
A 2015 photo of Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of Theranos, when things were much, much different for her.   (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

Elizabeth Holmes is facing serious prison time over the fraud scandal that brought down her health startup Theranos. Now Bloomberg reports that the 36-year-old might make the surprise move of using what amounts to an insanity defense at her March trial. Her lawyers plan to introduce evidence to show that "mental disease or defect" played a role in the scandal, in which Theranos promised to revolutionize the blood-testing industry without having the tech to back it up. One hint of the strategy: Holmes plans to have testimony from a clinical psychologist at Cal State-Fullerton who's an expert on trauma, particularly trauma that results from violence against women, according to Bloomberg. Not much is known beyond that.

"Contrary to what you may see in the movies, an insanity defense in federal cases is rare and hard to fake," University of Michigan law prof Barbara McQuade tells the outlet. Holmes must prove that some kind of mental defect made her "unable to appreciate the nature and quality or the wrongfulness of (her) acts." Holmes' legal team has been busy of late trying to get several of the charges against her dismissed for other reasons, reports the San Jose Mercury News, which runs through the details. Holmes, accused of bilking investors out of hundreds of millions of dollars, faces up to 20 years in prison and a multimillion-dollar fine if convicted. She also might have to pay restitution to those who lost money. (Holmes still has people defending her actions.)

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