What You’ve Missed in the Theranos Trial of Elizabeth Holmes

The former Silicon Valley darling faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.,


Continue reading the main story

Supported by

Continue reading the main story

ImageThe Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes leaving the courthouse in San Jose last week.
The Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes leaving the courthouse in San Jose last week.Credit…Brittany Hosea-Small/Reuters

Unlike the frenzy that has surrounded nearly every twist and turn in the Theranos saga, the trial of Elizabeth Holmes has been surprisingly mellow.

Holmes, the former start-up executive whose downfall has been retold in a documentary, book and podcast, faces up to 20 years in prison in a case that many see as comeuppance for the wrongs of Silicon Valley.

Court proceedings in San Jose began last month with feverish media coverage, as reporters lined up before dawn to secure a seat in the courtroom and a man who said he was a bystander turned out to be related to Holmes.

But the trial — now entering its sixth week of at least 16 — has quickly settled into, well, a trial.

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.

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.

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.

Reporters don’t get a heads-up as to who’s on the schedule for the day, and weren’t warned even when former Defense Secretary James Mattis was called to the stand a few weeks ago.

“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.”

For more:


To fight the Dixie fire, more than 700 fire vehicles were supported by a command center the size of a small town at the Lassen County fairgrounds.Credit…Brent McDonald/The New York Times

This is what fighting a giant wildfire looks like.


“No Time to Die” being screened in Burbank.Credit…Philip Cheung for The New York Times
  • A Hollywood success: Movie theaters are finally bouncing back from the pandemic, with solid turnout over the weekend for the latest James Bond spectacle.

  • 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.

  • Covid-19 shots: If you’ve had Covid-19, do you need a vaccine?

  • Latino voters: Jennifer Medina, a Times political reporter based in Los Angeles, talks about how she gets in the mind of Latinos who voted for Trump.

  • Dottie Dodgion: One of the very few high-profile female drummers in the male-dominated jazz world of the 1950s and ’60s, Dodgion died on Sept. 17 in Pacific Grove. She was 91.

  • Coronavirus death toll: More than 70,000 people have died of Covid-19 in California as of Monday, the most deaths of any state, The Associated Press reports.


  • A parallel universe: This Los Angeles artist makes large-scale, iridescent works that transport viewers into alien worlds.

  • 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.

  • Plane crash: A private aircraft crashed in a residential San Diego suburb, killing at least two people and damaging 10 homes, according to The Associated Press.

  • Opinion: What an L.A. City Council seat shows about power and politics.

  • 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.


  • Weather warning: Polluted air is expected through Wednesday in much of the Central Valley.

  • Dust storms: Strong winds and dry, loose soil led to vast dust storms that shut down highways from the Sacramento Valley to the Mojave Desert, according to SFGate.


  • Magic mushrooms: Officials in Arcata, a town in Humboldt County, have decriminalized the use of psychedelic plants, including mushrooms and ayahuasca, Lost Coast Outpost reports.

  • New fires: Multiple wind-driven blazes ignited on Monday across Northern California, CBS13 reports.

Three $1.6 million homes in the state.


The Times has released its list of the 50 restaurants we’re most excited about this year. Seven are in California.


Main Street in Salinas.Credit…Jason Henry for The New York Times

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 CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

A new book about the 2018 Paradise fire.

For one day at least, Cal and Stanford fans will have to make nice.

David Card, a professor at University of California, Berkeley, and Guido W. Imbens, a Stanford professor, were two of the three men jointly awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize in Economics for their research into the consequences of real-life economic experiments.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: A person’s soul mate (6 letters).

Mariel Wamsley contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.

Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox.

Leave a Reply