Elizabeth Holmes’ fate in her criminal fraud trial will not be decided before Christmas as the jury failed to reach a verdict in its first week of deliberations.
After more than 20 hours of deliberating across three days this week, the jury of eight men and four women concluded their deliberations Thursday, shortly after 3 p.m. local time. The jury is set to resume deliberations on Monday morning.
Earlier on Thursday, jurors signaled interest in how the former CEO and founder of Theranos pitched investors while running the failed blood-testing startup.
Around 12:30 p.m. local time, Judge Edward Davila read a note from the jury requesting to hear audio recordings that were first played earlier in the trial. In the recordings, from a call with investors in late 2013 when Theranos was drumming up interest in a new round of financing, Holmes made claims about the benefits of her company’s blood tests, its work with the military and pharmaceutical companies and its focus at the time on scaling its retail footprint. She also spoke about the company’s financials.
Theranos investor Bryan Tolbert testified that he recorded the call before his firm, Hall Group, decided to invest another $5 million in the company, adding to its initial $2 million investment in 2006. Hall Group’s 2013 investment underpins one of the wire fraud charges that Holmes is facing.
As the audio clips played, some members of the jury could be seen taking copious notes. Holmes, wearing a purple dress, purple mask and suit jacket, sat upright while the clips were played. Her mother and partner were both in the courtroom.
The note marked the first request from the jurors to revisit evidence from the trial. (The jury had previously asked whether they could take juror instructions home ahead of an off day for the court this week. The request was denied.)
Holmes was once hailed as the next Steve Jobs for her lofty promises of inventing a technology that could accurately and reliably test for a range of conditions using just a few drops of blood. Now she faces 11 federal fraud charges over allegations that she knowingly misled investors, doctors, and patients about her company’s blood testing capabilities in order to take their money and prevent Theranos from failing.
If convicted by the jury, Holmes faces up to 20 years in prison as well as a fine of $250,000 plus restitution for each count of wire fraud and each conspiracy count. She has pleaded not guilty.
The high-profile trial began more than three months ago, with much of that time taken up by the government’s case and the 29 witnesses it called to testify. Some of the ways in which Holmes was said to have perpetuated the alleged fraud, witness testimony indicated, was through misleading representations about her startup’s work with pharmaceutical companies and the military.
While the jury ultimately heard from Holmes firsthand when she took the stand as the last of three defense witnesses, the audio recording from 2013 was the first time jurors heard her infamous voice. The government first played the audio recordings of the investor call in late October, before the jury asked to hear again on Thursday.
“We built the business around our partnerships with pharmaceutical companies and our contracts with the military wherein we could deploy our framework and help them to accelerate clinical trials and in the other for extreme use case situations in trauma and other areas where there was a very compelling value proposition,” Holmes said in the recordings.
She also noted the potential to use Theranos’ blood-testing technology on medevac helicopters to “change survival rates.” She added: “We’ve been doing a lot of work there. We’ve also been doing a lot of work with Special Operations command.”
Under oath, Holmes testified that Theranos devices were never deployed in Afghanistan, on military medevacs, or for use by soldiers, despite conversations and aspirations to eventually do so. Numerous witnesses during the government’s case testified that they’d been told some variation of that, and had been impressed by it.
Near the end of her testimony, which took place over seven court days, Holmes said her goal in conversations with potential investors was to lay out a broad vision for Theranos.
“They were people who were long-term investors, and I wanted to talk about what this company could do a year from now, five years from now, ten years from now,” she said. “They weren’t interested in today or tomorrow or next month. They were interested in what kind of change we could make.”