Will Elizabeth Holmes Testify in the Theranos Trial?
The stage is set for what could be the most dramatic moment of the criminal trial of Elizabeth Holmes, founder of the failed start-up Theranos.
After 11 weeks of court proceedings plagued by delays, prosecutors appear prepared to rest their case soon. Then the defense will be up.
The defense lawyers’ list of potential witnesses includes Holmes, the former Silicon Valley darling who has pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of wire fraud and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
“Taking the stand would be a risky move, but Holmes has shown she can be very persuasive and charismatic,” Erin Griffith, a reporter for The New York Times, told me. “And she’s clearly a risk-taker.”
Holmes dropped out of Stanford and started the blood-testing start-up Theranos at age 19. For years she convinced big-name investors of her company’s promise. At one point, Theranos was valued at $9 billion.
But she and the company fell from grace after claims about its technology were shown to be false. Her downfall has captured the public imagination and spawned a documentary, book and podcast — and a mini-series based on that podcast.
Holmes, now 37 and a new mother, has been in the courtroom every day during the trial, but jurors have yet to hear her speak outside of recordings played as evidence. Her face is covered by a mask. And she sits so still that a courtroom artist said she’s particularly easy to sketch.
The Times reporter Erin Woo told me that she thought a key piece of the defense’s case might require Holmes to take the stand.
Holmes’s lawyers are expected to argue that she was manipulated by Sunny Balwani, Theranos’s former chief operating officer and Holmes’s former boyfriend. In court filings, Holmes has said Balwani, who faces a separate trial next year, was emotionally abusive and controlling.
But jurors so far haven’t heard much of this argument. And former Theranos employees are unlikely to be able to shed light on Holmes’s private life with Balwani, Woo told me.
“The two of them kept their relationship secret during their time at Theranos,” Woo said. “It seems like Holmes herself may have to testify to their relationship if her team wants jurors to understand what the inner workings of it were like.”
The trial has exposed the carelessness of start-up investors.
What it’s like inside the courtroom.
If you read one story, make it this
Drug overdose deaths soared during the pandemic, especially in California.
The rest of the news
U.C. strike averted: The University of California and the union representing 6,500 lecturers reached a tentative agreement early Wednesday that averted a planned two-day walkout, The Associated Press reports.
Huge budget surplus: California predicts a $31 billion surplus for the 2022 budget year that begins July 1, The Associated Press reports.
More fires: New research shows that the hottest summer days in the Sierra Nevada greatly increase the risk that wildfires will ignite or spread.
Fewer parking spaces: San Diego wiped out parking requirements for businesses in many neighborhoods to accelerate efforts to make the city less reliant on cars, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
Staples Center: The Los Angeles stadium that is home to the Lakers, Clippers, Sparks and Kings announced it will rebrand as Crypto.com Arena, named after a cryptocurrency platform based in Singapore.
Secretive spying: The Los Angeles Police Department partnered with a technology company that could enable officers to use fake social media accounts to surveil civilians, The Guardian reports.
Covid relief fraud: A San Fernando Valley couple convicted of illegally applying for $20 million in Covid-19 relief funds is currently on the run.
Drought: Poor San Joaquin Valley towns with a history of racial exclusion now struggle for access to drinking water, Capital & Main reports.
Safe injection sites: San Francisco could open a supervised drug-use site as soon as next spring, KTVU reports.
Fawn fire: A woman accused of starting a wildfire near Redding in September was deemed incompetent to stand trial, The Associated Press reports.
New park: A nature conservancy bought the financier Dean Witter’s ranch and will convert it to the Eel River Canyon Preserve in Mendocino and Trinity Counties, The Associated Press reports.
What we’re eating
Salted peanuts in these cookies result in a delightfully salty-sweet treat.
Where we’re traveling
Today’s tip comes from Meg Waite Clayton, who recommends visiting California’s independent bookstores:
“There are more than 100 between Eureka Books, housed in a 1879 Victorian, and Warwick’s, where the La Jolla community conversation never stops, so you are rarely far from one. Many have wonderful histories, like Kepler’s in Menlo Park, where the Grateful Dead and Joan Baez hosted impromptu salons to discuss ideas, political action and music. Some are as tiny as A Great Good Place for Books in Oakland, which hosts the most charming author events in its cozy space, while others like Vroman’s in Pasadena and Books Inc. in the San Francisco Bay Area cover multiple floors or have multiple stores.
In any of these stores, wonderful booksellers can help you find books you will love. Independent bookstores are where most authors first find their readership, and where readers discover new authors, too, so in supporting them you’ll be contributing to the growth and vibrancy of literature.”
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
And before you go, some good news
When the Dixie fire scorched massive swaths of Northern California, wildlife officials were worried.
The land is home to the Sierra Nevada red fox, one of the rarest mammals on the continent. There may be only dozens of them.
But, amazingly, the clever foxes appear to be have survived the devastating blaze.
Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Central belief (5 letters).
Steven Moity and Mariel Wamsley contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.