Elizabeth Holmes trial: closing arguments begin in final face-off

Prosecutors in the trial of Elizabeth Holmes laid out their closing arguments on Thursday as the final face-off begins in the dramatic proceedings that have stretched on over 15 weeks.

The fallen Silicon Valley star faces 11 charges of defrauding investors and consumers over her technology, which she claimed could carry out hundreds of tests using just a single drop of blood.

Prosecutor Jeff Schenk presented to the jury a recap of arguments that Holmes knowingly lied about the capabilities of Theranos testing, saying the evidence shows “she made the decision to defraud her investors and then to defraud her patients”.

“She chose fraud over business failure. She choose to be dishonest with investors and patients,” he said. “That choice was not only callous, it was criminal.”

Summations of the respective cases are expected to spill into Friday, after which a jury consisting of 10 men and four women will determine Holmes’s fate. She faces up to 20 years in prison and has pleaded not guilty.

The trial chronicled missteps in Holmes’s 15-year reign as CEO of Theranos, a blood-testing startup she founded after dropping out of Stanford University when she was just 19.

Holmes, now 37, offered a compelling promise. Instead of relying on vials of blood drawn from veins, Theranos touted a technology that Holmes said would be able to scan for hundreds of diseases and other potential problems with a few drops of blood taken via a finger prick.

Theranos wooed billionaire investors while assembling a board of directors that included former US cabinet members spanning from the Nixon to Trump administrations. It raised more than $900m, struck partnerships with major retailers Walgreens and Safeway and turned Elizabeth Holmes into a Silicon Valley sensation with an estimated fortune of $4.5bn.

But unknown to most people outside Theranos, the company’s blood-testing technology was flawed, often producing inaccurate results that could have endangered the lives of patients who took the tests at Walgreens stores.

The problems, exposed in 2015 and 2016 by stories in the Wall Street Journal and the findings of a regulatory audit, led to Theranos’s collapse in 2018. That, in turn, triggered felony charges against Holmes.

Government prosecutors have painted Holmes as a charlatan who duped investors, business partners and patients in pursuit of fame and fortune while positioning herself as a visionary similar to her hero Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple. Holmes’s lawyers have depicted her as a trailblazer who took a few wrong turns while running Theranos, but never committed any crimes.

In seven days on the stand, Holmes expressed some contrition while insisting she never stopped trying to refine Theranos’s technology. She also blamed her former lover and business partner Sunny Balwani for many of the company’s problems while accusing him of mental, emotional and sexual abuse that she said turned her into his pawn.

Balwani, Theranos’s chief operating officer from 2009 until Holmes ousted him in 2016, faces similar criminal charges in a separate trial scheduled to begin early next year. His attorney has adamantly denied Holmes’s allegations.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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