Combative Witness Emerges in Elizabeth Holmes Trial

Defense attorney spars with jilted Theranos investor Alan Eisenman
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 16, 2021 12:55 PM CST
Combative Witness Emerges in Elizabeth Holmes Trial
In this Aug. 31, 2021, file photo, Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of Theranos, arrives at the federal courthouse in San Jose, Calif.   (AP Photo/Nic Coury, File)

(Newser) – The fraud trial of Elizabeth Holmes is now in its second month, and this week saw the emergence of a colorful, combative witness. Things got so heated in court between Holmes attorney Kevin Downey and investor Alan Eisenman on Monday that the judge called for a "reset," reports CBS San Francisco. The two frequently talked over each other, with the judge admonishing Eisenman, "You have to wait to answer until the question is completed," per Courthouse News. "Then you must give a thoughtful answer only to the question that was asked." Eisenman lost more than $1 million investing in Holmes' now-defunct blood-testing company Theranos.

Downey wanted Eisenman to admit that he signed a document in 2010 stipulating that Theranos "was an early-stage life sciences startup that carried immense risk." Eisenman resisted a yes-or-no answer, characterizing the wording as boilerplate and insisting that he was misled by Holmes and company president Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani. At one point, Downey resorted to asking, "Did someone hold a gun to your head and make you invest?" The attorney also pointed out that Eisenman had multiple opportunities to cash out his initial investment at a profit but declined to do so.

Another part of what CNBC calls their "contentious" back-and-forth: Downey displayed an email from Eisenman to prosecutors in which he wrote, "You know that I am a faithful part of your team, and will do all that I can to help your case." Asked about that in court, Eisenman defended the sentiment: "I think there was business fraud. I think I was lied to and taken advantage of ... and I’ll do what I can to tell my story."

He said his multiple attempts to communicate with prosecutors—which continued even after he was warned to stop—were no big deal, but a legal analyst for CBS calls it a win for Holmes. "This is the smoking gun for the defense—if they have a witness who outright admits that he’ll do basically whatever he can to help the prosecution," says Michele Hagan. "Yes, it very much impeaches his credibility." The Verge digs deeper into Eisenman and his testimony, describing him as "the kind of character Matthew McConaughey will play in about 15 years." (Read more Elizabeth Holmes stories.)

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