At Elizabeth Holmes Trial, a 'Sudden,' Maybe Risky Move

In 'surprising' development, defense team brings Theranos founder herself to the stand
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 20, 2021 7:30 AM CST
At Elizabeth Holmes Trial, a 'Sudden,' Maybe Risky Move
Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of the now-defunct Theranos, left, leaves the Robert F. Peckham Federal Building in San Jose, Calif., on May 4, 2021.   (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group via AP, File)

(Newser) – The criminal trial of Elizabeth Holmes is set to enter its 12th week, and it ended the 11th week with a "sudden and surprising move" by the defense, which started making its case Friday. To wit: The 37-year-old Theranos founder herself took the stand, striding "confidently" to the front of the room and taking off her face mask "with a smile," per CNBC, which notes it's the first time jurors have seen Holmes unmasked. Defense attorneys hadn't previously suggested that Holmes would take the stand.

In her hourlong testimony, a "poised" and "polished" Holmes recapped the roots of Theranos' creation in 2003, starting with her passion for health care as a teen and her early days doing lab work at Stanford, per the Wall Street Journal. When she dropped out of school at 19 to devote her time to blood-testing startup Theranos, she says her parents supported her, and she quickly set to work acquiring a patent, building a prototype, recruiting technologists she knew from Stanford, and seeking out VC funds and customers, per her testimony.

Both the Journal and the New York Times note that Holmes taking the stand is a risky move, as it could open her up to harsh cross-examination and even make her vulnerable to perjury. "Most criminal defendants do not testify, particularly in white-collar cases where the government has many challenges to overcome, like in proving intent," Andrey Spektor, a former federal prosecutor in New York's Eastern District, tells the latter outlet.

Holmes' testimony was a stark contrast to that provided by dozens of witnesses—including former investors, doctors, lab workers, business partners, and patients—called by the prosecution during the first 11 weeks of the trial in its attempt to highlight what it says was deception on the part of Holmes in hawking a product she knew didn't really work. Holmes—who'll likely remain on the stand through Tuesday, when the trial will take a break for the Thanksgiving holiday, per her lawyer—has been charged with 11 counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. If convicted, she faces up to 20 years behind bars on each count. Holmes has pleaded not guilty to all charges and has denied any wrongdoing. (Read more Elizabeth Holmes stories.)

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