After four months, the trial of Elizabeth Holmes is coming to a close.
The case against Holmes, on charges of fraud stemming from her reign over failed blood-testing startup Theranos, went to the jury Friday. As the trial wound down this week, the defense concluded its closing arguments and the prosecution gave a final rebuttal. Holmes, who is being tried for 11 counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, could face a maximum federal prison sentence of 20 years per count.
Kevin Downey, one of Holmes’ lawyers, hammered home the point that the entrepreneur couldn’t have intentionally defrauded investors because she believed in the company every step of the way. He returned to the fact that Holmes never sold a share of her stock in Theranos while contending that there wasn’t evidence that she held onto her stake to maintain control and avoid scrutiny, as the government had argued.
"[At the] first sign of trouble, crooks cash out, criminals cover up and rats flee a sinking ship," Downey said. "She went down with that ship when it went down.”
Downey also sought to shift blame onto former Theranos lab director Adam Rosendorff. Rosendorff’s testimony supported her faith in his expertise, Downey argued, as he said he never signed off on validation reports for tests he wasn’t comfortable with. He also argued that Rosendorff was responsible for the conditions that alarmed former lab associate Erika Cheung, whose whistleblower complaint to the CMS triggered an investigation that led to the shutdown of the company’s testing lab.
He also argued investors could have done their own questioning and research, but failed to do so. Downey claimed it was public knowledge that Theranos performed needle-in-the arm blood draws as part of its testing, refuting testimony by Alan Eisenman, an investor who gave the company around $1.2 million and claimed that fact had been hidden from him.
In its rebuttal, the prosecution said blame couldn’t be placed on investors.
“The level of due diligence doesn’t matter,” said John Bostic, a prosecutor representing the U.S. “A scheme to defraud is still a scheme to defraud, even if it would only ensnare someone who is less careful than they should be.”
No matter how much Holmes believed in Theranos, Bostic argued, the company she portrayed to investors and partners never really existed. And Holmes was "so desperate to see the company succeed," Bostic said, that she would have done anything.
"The disease that plagued Theranos was not a lack of effort,” Bostic said. “It was a lack of honesty.”
Refuting the defense’s overarching narrative that Holmes was a naïve and starry-eyed college drop-out who didn’t understand the consequences of her actions, Bostic said she was “certainly old enough to know the difference between right and wrong.”
The jury began deliberating on Friday, and could return a verdict by the end of the year.
Once again, the many watching the trial — former employees, investors, curious members of the public and even the odd Elizabeth Holmes cosplayer or two — will have to wait.