SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — Elizabeth Holmes made a risky, bold move when she chose to testify in her own defense at her criminal fraud trial Monday. It was also a smart tactic because Holmes is famous for her charisma and likeable personality, a legal analyst said.
As the CEO of Theranos, Holmes became the “golden girl” of Silicon Valley by winning over sophisticated, powerful, and wealthy investors who believed in her vision for revolutionizing healthcare.
Now she’s using her charm to win over a jury. If she fails, Holmes could spend the next 20 years in prison.
“It’s her life after all, why not fight for it?” legal analyst and former prosecutor Michele Hagan told KRON4.
Holmes, 37, is charged with defrauding patients and investors through her biotech startup company.
The burden of proof is on federal prosecutors. To avoid prison, she only needs to plant seeds of doubt in one of the 12 jurors’ minds.
Holmes told the jury about her ambitious dreams of saving patients’ lives. She dropped out of Stanford University at age 19 and invented a machine that could run blood tests from just a fingerpick of blood, she claimed.
On the stand, Holmes was well-spoken, polite, and eagerly answered easy questions from her defense attorneys. Her usually low, baritone voice was noticeably higher as she spoke in front of the jury.
Here dramatic demise began when an investigative series by reporter John Carreyrou was printed in the Wall Street Journal that exposed major flaws in Theranos’ technology. Carreyrou was among dozens of reporters in the courtroom Monday who closely listened to Holmes’ rosy side of the story.
The risky part for Holmes taking the stand will happen when prosecutors get their turn to grill her with cross-examination.
Before resting its case Friday, prosecutors spent three months hauling former Theranos employees, investors, patients and journalists into the courtroom to expose what Holmes knew, and when she knew it.
Did she know her company was at-risk of going broke when she told potential investors that it was worth billions? Did she know that Theranos blood testing machines gave bogus test results when her company moved forward with accepting patients?
Prosecutors will be able to ask Holmes those questions after her defense wraps up its direct examination. Her testimony is expected to last through this week and next week.
The longer Holmes stays on the stand, the better her chances are of winning, Hagan said.
Hagan said Holmes has an ideal personality and background for shining in a courtroom.
“I know that personality. And that personality takes the stand. She’s a hard-hitting CEO. She has the skill set to persuade, convince, and give a very strong presentation. She wants to tell the jury that she would never try to defraud anybody,” Hagan said.
Holmes is a lot like a football quarterback, the kind of woman who wants to take charge, Hagan said.
“They are giving Elizabeth the ball to run down to make a touchdown. She’s the one who is going to have the most influence on the outcome,” Hagan said.