The long-awaited update from the US District Court in San Jose. Judge Edward Davila ruled last Friday limiting the specifics on Elizabeth Holmes’ lifestyle that the prosecution wanted to present as evidence. Only general evidence of Elizabeth Holmes’ Silicon Valley CEO lifestyle would be admissible. The prosecution, in his words, “Each time Holmes made an extravagant purchase, it is reasonable to infer that she knew her fraudulent activity allowed her to pay for those items,” but that “Evidence of Holmes’s wealth can be construed as ‘appeals to class prejudice’ which are considered ‘highly improper’ because they ‘may so poison the minds of jurors even in a strong case that an accused may be deprived of a fair trial.” To the judge, evidence of Holmes’ wealth and fame are not even moderately related to the intent to defraud, the last of which is the heart of the charges.
The prosecution therefore has to walk a very fine line. It’s apparently fine to say that Holmes enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle equivalent to her Silicon Valley peers, with the usual perks. But details on brands of clothing, hotels, and other specifics “outside the general nature of her position as Theranos CEO,” is beyond the scope of the trial.
Judge Davila may be doing the prosecution a large favor by limiting this evidence. Too much reliance on lifestyle as the main motive to defraud is a crutch that could backfire with the jury, especially when they see in August a modestly dressed new mother Holmes. It could also open up an appeal on the basis of prejudicing the jury. To this Editor, there is abundant direct evidence of fraud of patients and investors in a technology that didn’t work, never could work, and the coverup. No need to overegg the pudding. Mercury News
And no profanity in the court! The jury will be spared the infamous employee meeting chants telling a rival testing company (Sonora Quest) and John Carreyrou of the Wall Street Journal to do something unprintable in a business article with themselves. The defense won the argument that these chants were the Silicon Valley Norm to motivate employees. Even the prosecution admitted that these might be “somewhat inflammatory”. Colorful, but inadmissible. Mercury News
And lest we forget. Holmes is facing maximum penalties of 20 years in prison and a $2.75 million fine, plus possible restitution. The trial starts 31 August. Earlier chapters of this saga are here.