SAN JOSE (KRON) – Elizabeth Holmes, the youngest self-made billionaire in America, was silent as she arrived at a federal courthouse in San Jose Wednesday surrounded by a throng of news cameras.
Holmes is charged with fraud and faces 20 years in prison if convicted. She remained silent when a reporter asked her if she felt she would get an unbiased jury.
The case is one of the biggest scandals in Silicon Valley history. Blood tests conducted by Holmes’ company, Theranos, gave false results for patients.
Holmes rose into a Silicon Valley star as the young CEO of Theranos, a blood-testing company worth $9 billion. When federal investigators charged her with defrauding investors and patients, Holmes had a long way to fall.
Jury selection continued on Wednesday with prospective jurors being peppered with questions from the judge, prosecutors, and defense attorneys.
One revealing question asked was about domestic abuse. Prosecutors asked if anyone had been involved personally in domestic abuse, and whether hearing testimony about abuse would trigger emotions.
Holmes is anticipated to take the stand in her own defense and claim she was abused by her ex-boyfriend, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani.
Balwani was COO of Theranos. In court documents unsealed over the weekend, Holmes’ attorneys wrote that they plan to pin the blame on Balwani. They claim he controlled and manipulated Holmes, “essentially dominating her and erasing her capacity to make decisions.”
Balwani and Holmes both pleaded not guilty to fraud. They are being put on trial separately.
Dozens of prospective jurors were dismissed Wednesday. One dismissed woman, Kemi Nelson, works as a domestic violence attorney. Nelson thought she would have been a fair juror.
“It would have been interesting to serve on the jury. I’m trained as a lawyer. My job is to evaluate the facts, weigh credibility, and be objective,” Nelson told KRON4.
“The indictment alleges Mrs. Holmes and (Balwani) knowingly and intentionally devised a scheme to defraud investors and patients,” U.S. District Judge Edward Davila told prospective jurors Wednesday as he outlined jury instructions.
The issue talked about the most during jury selection was past media exposure. Prospective jurors admitted to the judge that they already knew a lot about the case from watching documentaries, listening to podcasts, reading books, seeing news headlines, and viewing memes on social media.
Many of the jurors felt that they could push their previous feelings and beliefs about Holmes aside, and only make a judgment based on facts presented in a courtroom.
Prosecutors said they have strong concerns about the widespread publicity of the case.
Several prospective jurors watched a documentary titled, “The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley” and read the book “Bad Blood,” which are all about the rise and fall of Theranos.
One juror said, “The documentary gave a negative picture about the defendant. I recognize I have some bias. I can try to put aside bias and only look at the facts.”
Another juror who promised to be unbiased and fair said, “There are always two sides to a story.”
A third juror said her only exposure to the case from memes on social media poking fun at Holmes’ voice. Holmes often spoke in a low, baritone voice. Critics on social media have quipped that Holmes uses a “fake voice” to convey her words with authority. So far, Holmes has not said a word in the courtroom.
Judge Davila said trying to disregard past media exposure for most people is a difficult “Herculean task.”
Another juror said he had read news articles about the case, but it had been so long since the scandal first broke, he forgot everything about Holmes, except for one thing.
“The only thing I remember is the defendant’s penchant for turtlenecks,” he said.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Judge Davila said, “I am confident we will select a jury today.” But after a 20-minute break, Davila returned to the courtroom and said the jury will not be selected and sworn-in until Thursday.
The trial was heavily delayed earlier this year because of Homles’ pregnancy. There was a possibility that she would bring her new baby to the courtroom with her. But so far, she has chosen to not bring her infant.
Opening arguments are set to begin Sept. 8. Davila said the trial will last over three months.
Follow KRON4 Digital Reporter Amy Larson on Twitter for the latest details on the Elizabeth Holmes trial as it unfolds.