Technology

Jurors in Elizabeth Holmes’ trial raise concerns about questionnaires with personal information being released


Elizabeth Holmes, the founder and former CEO of blood testing and life sciences company Theranos, arrives for the first day of her fraud trial, outside Federal Court in San Jose, California. September 8, 2021.

Nick Otto | AFP | Getty Images

SAN JOSE, CALIF. — A defense attorney for embattled Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes raised the issue of a fair trial amid the possibility of releasing the personal information, beliefs and habits of the jury.

Eleven media companies, including NBCUniversal, are asking the judge to release the jury questionnaires. U.S. District Court Judge Edward Davila initially told jurors that their questionnaire, intended to identify potential bias when selecting a jury, would remain confidential.

Davila met individually with each juror to talk about the release of their personal information.

Kevin Downey, an attorney for Holmes, told the judge on Wednesday they’re concerned that unsealing the jury questionnaires at this point may interfere with Holmes’ right to a fair trial. “Some of the [juror] comments raise concerns,” Downey said.

“We need to make sure we don’t have jurors who are reporting a reaction to that that’s affecting their ability to serve,” Downey told the judge. Davila said he would set hearings over the course of the next five weeks to rule on whether the questionnaires would be unsealed.

The jurors completed an extensive 28-page questionnaire that asked them about their media exposure, views on healthcare, venture capital investing, religious beliefs and other topics.

The form also includes the juror’s name, level of education, profession, criminal record and other personal information.

“I think the jurors will err on the side of being concerned about what’s made public, this is a very high profile trial and they know that they’re being scrutinized,” said NBC News Legal Analyst Danny Cevallos.

Cevallos said it’s not common to unseal juror questionnaires mid-trial but “the media is now interested in finding out what is going on with this jury.”

The jury deciding Holmes’ fate consists of eight men and four women as well as three alternates. Last week a juror was removed after disclosing she’s a Buddhist and had concerns over voting for a prison sentence.

“When they answered the questionnaires they probably didn’t have an idea that it would be on blast to the rest of the world,” Cevallos said. “That could make them feel uncomfortable.”

Holmes, a Stanford dropout who founded Theranos at 19 years old, is facing up to 20 years in prison and a $3 million fine if convicted. Prosecutors allege she engaged in a multi-million dollar fraud misleading investors and patients about her company’s blood-testing technology. Holmes has pleaded not guilty.

At its height, Theranos was valued at $9 million. Holmes once attracted world leaders in business and politics who invested in Theranos and served on the board of directors. Many of those are witnesses in her criminal trial.

Former Walgreens Chief Financial Officer, Wade Miquelon, took the stand following the morning delay. Miquelon told jurors that Walgreens invested $140 million in Theranos, putting the Edison blood-testing devices in 40 stores across Arizona and California.

Miquelon testified that he was told the in-store testing centers “would be better, faster, cheaper.” The executive, who worked at Walgreens from 2008 to 2014, said his understanding was that customers’ “blood would be tested on the Edison device.”

Walgreens terminated its partnership with Theranos in 2016 and ultimately sued the Silicon Valley startup for breach of contract.

Miquelon was the second retail executive that jurors heard from in the trial. The former CEO of Safeway, Steve Burd, testified for two days about initially being charmed by Holmes but growing frustrated with the nearly $400 million partnership after repeated delays in the rollout.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of CNBC.

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