What You’ve Missed in the Theranos Trial of Elizabeth Holmes
The day-to-day events are mostly procedural, technical and sometimes dull, my colleagues Erin Woo and Erin Griffith write in a new article about what it’s like inside the courtroom. (Apparently Holmes is easy to draw because she rarely moves, a courtroom artist revealed in the piece.)
I caught up with Woo and Griffith, who told me what has struck them about the trial so far and what they’ll be paying attention to going forward.
Running out of jurors
The jury seems to be the biggest threat to the case staying on track.
The trial began with 17 jurors, including five alternates. But we’re less than halfway through, and only three alternates remain.
In the first week, a juror was dismissed after learning that her employer would not compensate her for the time away.
Then last week, a juror was sent home after she said her Buddhist faith made her uncomfortable with the idea of punishing Holmes. Her replacement said she did not speak English well, though the judge did not allow her to leave.
“I think a few of us panicked that the whole thing was about to unravel last week,” Griffith told me. “It was hard enough to find 17 people who had never heard of Theranos or Elizabeth Holmes and could set aside three months of their lives for this.”
The jurors also have to be protected from any news coverage of the trial so they remain unbiased. The judge begins and ends each court session by asking whether they have recently heard about Holmes or Theranos.
And there’s the pandemic to worry about — a day of testimony was canceled early in the trial because a juror had a Covid-19 exposure.
If the number of jurors drops below 12, there could be a mistrial, a major setback for prosecutors given that the trial has already been delayed repeatedly.
Will Holmes testify?
Much of what witnesses have been questioned about hasn’t always been easy to follow.
Words like “immunoassays” and abbreviations like H.C.G. (a hormone test) are often presented with no explanation, Woo said.
“Something that I didn’t expect is how much of the testimony deals with very complicated scientific issues, and how little it feels those issues are spelled out for the jury — who were selected at least in part because of their unfamiliarity with Theranos and the biotech industry,” Woo told me. “I’m very interested to see what they get out of this.”
The prosecution is currently presenting its case, after which the defense will begin. Holmes’s lawyers are expected to argue that she was manipulated by Sunny Balwani, her ex-partner and ex-boyfriend.
Holmes is on the list of potential witnesses, though we don’t know if she’s going to testify.
“Every new witness is a bit of a surprise. You hear whispers and furious typing spread like a wave across the room as the reporters relay the news to their editors or Twitter,” Griffith told me. “The moment they called General Mattis was the closest thing to a dramatic movie courtroom moment so far. I actually let out a tiny gasp.”
Power outages: Pacific Gas & Electric began shutting off power to about 25,000 customers in Central and Northern California on Monday, and Southern California Edison warned it may do the same amid increased fire danger, The Associated Press reports.
Oil spill: Huntington Beach reopened on Monday after being closed for an offshore oil spill. Officials say there are no detectable levels of oil-related toxins in the water, The Associated Press reports.
Conserving the Colorado River: Farmers in the Palo Verde Irrigation District are being paid not to grow crops in an effort to keep more water in Lake Mead, which has reached historically low levels, The Los Angeles Times reports.
Today’s travel tip comes from Patricia Rasmussen, who recommends Salinas:
This summer we decided to travel by car from Southern California, up the coast to Carmel and over to Salinas — John Steinbeck’s birthplace. We visited the home he was born in and tried to go to the museum that bears his name but it was closed. Salinas, like many small towns, struggled to keep its Main Street alive during the pandemic. Even on a Monday, we were able to enjoy the old buildings and quaint pubs. The Steinbeck home is run by volunteers who have refurbished the building and just recently reopened the doors to the public.
We took another short drive to Monterey as my husband was anxious to see Cannery Row, which isn’t in the best shape. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has reopened and reservations are a must.
Steinbeck and a coastal drive made us remember why we, native Californians, still love California.
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.