A jury of 12 residents of Santa Clara County, Calif., and five alternates was sworn in on Thursday for the fraud trial of Elizabeth Holmes, the disgraced founder of blood testing start-up Theranos, which is set to begin next week.
The jury consists of seven men and five women.
For two days, Judge Edward Davila of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, federal prosecutors and Ms. Holmesâ€™s defense lawyers questioned roughly 100 potential jurors over their answers to a 28-page questionnaire that spanned topics including what news outlets they read, whether they knew any potential witnesses and whether they have had negative medical experiences.
The jury will decide the fate of Ms. Holmes, who is battling 12 counts of fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud over false claims she made about Theranosâ€™s blood tests and business. Her trial is one of Silicon Valleyâ€™s most prominent fraud cases and a public fascination with Ms. Holmes has spawned documentaries, a book and a mini-series 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.
One potential juror said she went down a â€œYouTube rabbit holeâ€ of videos about Ms. Holmes. Another said she had seen a social media meme about Ms. Holmesâ€™s voice â€” Ms. Holmes appeared to have deepened her voice at times â€” something that contributed to her cult of personality and the interest in her downfall.
Scheduling was another issue. The trial is set to last 13 weeks or longer. Some jurors were dismissed because they had upcoming surgeries or long-awaited vacations. Others were excused because they were teachers with no one to fill in for them.
Domestic abuse was a significant topic of discussion. Ms. Holmesâ€™s lawyers have indicated that she is likely to argue that she was abused and controlled by her business partner, Ramesh Balwani, known as Sunny, whom she also dated. Mr. Balwani also faces fraud charges. When Judge Davila asked if any jurors had been exposed to domestic abuse on Wednesday, roughly half of them raised their hands and shared stories that they said could sway their views of the evidence and testimonies.
Another potential juror worked on a whistle-blower program for law enforcement. Theranos was felled, in part, by two young employees who reported issues with the companyâ€™s tests to government agencies and the press. Still another prospective juror was dismissed for bias because his mother-in-law went to prison for embezzlement.
On Wednesday, the prosecution argued that five of the potential jurors that Ms. Holmesâ€™s lawyers had proposed to dismiss for hardship were people of color. Ms. Holmesâ€™ lawyers denied any racial profiling of jurors.
On Thursday, lawyers for each side agreed on a jury within an hour, passing a list of jurors between them as each side used their allotted â€œchallengesâ€ to eliminate jurors of their choosing.