A jury of 12 Santa Clara County, California, residents and five alternates was sworn in Thursday for the fraud trial of Elizabeth Holmes, the disgraced founder of blood testing startup Theranos, which begins next week.
The jury is made up of seven men and five women.
For two days, Judge Edward Dávila of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, federal prosecutors and Ms. Holmes’s defense attorneys questioned approximately 100 potential jurors about their responses to a 28-page questionnaire covering topics including which media they read, whether they knew potential witnesses, and whether they had negative medical experiences.
The jury will decide the fate of Ms. Holmes, who is fighting 12 counts of fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud for false claims she made about blood tests and Theranos business. Her trial is one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent fraud cases, and public fascination with Ms. Holmes has spawned documentaries, a book and a miniseries. starring Amanda Seyfried.
Finding jurors who had never heard of Theranos, which collapsed in 2018 after reports that its blood testing technology did not work as advertised, was a challenge.
A potential juror said he got into a “YouTube rabbit hole” of videos about Ms. Holmes. Another said she had seen a meme on social media about Ms. Holmes’s voice (Ms. Holmes seemed to have deepened her voice at times), something that contributed to her cult of personality and interest in her downfall.
Scheduling was another problem. The test is scheduled to last 13 weeks or more. Some jurors were fired because they had upcoming surgeries or long-awaited vacations. Others were excused because they were teachers with no one to replace them.
Domestic abuse was a major topic of discussion. Ms. Holmes’s attorneys have indicated that she is likely arguing that she was abused and controlled by her business partner, Ramesh Balwani, known as Sunny, with whom she also dated. Balwani also faces fraud charges. When Judge Dávila asked if any jurors had been exposed to domestic abuse on Wednesday, about half of them raised their hands and shared stories that they said could influence their views on the evidence and testimony.
Another potential juror worked on a whistleblower program for law enforcement. Theranos was brought down, in part, by two young employees who reported problems with the company’s testing to government agencies and the press. Another possible juror was fired for bias because his mother-in-law went to jail for embezzlement.
On Wednesday, the prosecution argued that five of the potential jurors Holmes’s attorneys had proposed to fire for hardship were people of color. Ms. Holmes’s attorneys denied any racial profiling of the jurors.
On Thursday, attorneys for each side agreed to a jury within an hour, passing a list of jurors between them as each side used their assigned “challenges” to eliminate jurors of their choice.