Elizabeth Holmes' lawyers want jurors untainted by intense media coverage of Theranos

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Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes exits Robert F. Peckham U.S. Courthouse after the first day of federal court hearings in San Jose, California, U.S. May 4, 2021.  REUTERS/Kate Munsch
Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes exits Robert F. Peckham U.S. Courthouse after the first day of federal court hearings in San Jose, California, U.S. May 4, 2021. REUTERS/Kate Munsch

Court documents filed Thursday in the federal criminal fraud case against former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes reveal questions that her attorneys hope to pose in selecting the jurors who will decide the fate of the embattled Silicon Valley entrepreneur.

The proposed questionnaire and jury instructions submitted in the case scheduled to begin jury selection on Aug. 31 point to the challenges Holmes’ lawyers face in empaneling a jury untainted by intense media coverage on Holmes’ and the company’s downfall.

Most revealing of concerns over the possibility of a media-tainted jury are her lawyers' requests to ask jury pool members about specific media outlets, as well as journalists who closely covered Theranos’ demise. The list includes Wall Street Journal reporter, John Carreyrou, who exposed in 2015 that the blood-testing company was incapable of running the breadth of diagnostic tests it had been promoting.

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 28: John Carreyrou attends HBO Hosts The Premiere Of
John Carreyrou attends HBO Hosts The Premiere Of "The Inventor: Out For Blood In Silicon Valley" at Warner Media Screening Room on February 28, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

“Do you read, listen to, follow, or subscribe to any of the following individuals on blogs, podcasts, social media, or in any other way?” the document proposes. “If yes, please circle the applicable individuals — John Carreyrou, Roger Parloff, Adam Klasfeld ... Chuck Barney, Yasmin Khorram, Sara Randazzo, Tom Hals, Matthew Renda, Ken Auletta, Kara Swisher, Matthew Herper, Rebecca Jarvis, Joel Rosenblatt, Eric Topol.”

The people listed have covered Theranos in various capacities, both before and after the company's implosion. Parloff, now a Yahoo Finance contributor, wrote a Fortune Magazine cover story about Holmes in 2014, and later wrote that the startup misled him. The New Yorker's Auletta also wrote a profile of Holmes that year called "Blood, Simpler," while ABC News' Jarvis chronicled her downfall in "The Dropout" podcast.

“Based on what you have read or heard so far, do you hold the opinion that the defendant is: definitely guilty, probably guilty, probably not guilty, definitely not guilty?” the proposed 45-page questionnaire asks, also offering an option for prospective jurors to select “unsure.”

'How often do you check, follow, or read news or current events?'

The document goes on to suggest that potential jurors explain their traditional and social media habits by answering how frequently they rely on particular sources for news, how much news they believe is accurate, and whether they used social media to comment on Holmes and her former significant other and co-defendant, former Theranos COO, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani. 

“How often do you check, follow, or read about news or current events?” the attorneys want to know, in addition to a request that prospective jurors be required to list the accounts they hold on social media platforms.

The prospective questions go on to suggest that jurors reveal whether they had ever read, viewed, or heard about anything relating to Theranos, Holmes, and/or Balwani in certain publications and if so, what they recall about what they viewed, read or heard.

Beyond questions focused on media coverage, Holmes’ lawyers also hope to inquire if potential jurors have specialized expertise in areas such as diagnostic testing, medical care, and others in which Theranos was engaged, as well as if their past work experience has involved the venture capital industry. Holmes is accused of raising nearly $1 billion dollars from prominent Silicon Valley investment firms and in doing so defrauding investors.

Holmes’ attorneys expect the trial to last at least 13 weeks.

This story has been updated to reflect that the Wall Street Journal exposed Theranos' troubles in 2015, and not in 2016, as previously written.

Alexis Keenan is a legal reporter for Yahoo Finance and former litigation attorney. Follow Alexis Keenan on Twitter @alexiskweed.

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