Elizabeth Holmes’ legal filings suggest a mental-health defense
With just a few days left until Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes faces criminal fraud charges at trial, newly unsealed court documents (via NPR) reveal evidence that her lawyers may cite in her defense.
If you don’t remember the details from the scandal as described in a book, documentary, and more than one podcast series, Theranos told investors it developed revolutionary blood test technology capable of amazing results based on just a few small drops. Theranos had been valued at as much as $9 billion before reports exposed its inaccurate results and use of modified machines by other companies to perform crucial testing instead of its own Edison device. The company folded in 2016, and federal prosecutors charged Holmes and Balwani (pdf) two years later for wire fraud, listing investors and patients as victims of their deception.
That brings us to 2019 and 2020 when lawyers filed these documents in an eventually successful attempt to sever the two as defendants. They are public now due to a challenge (pdf) from the Wall Street Journal.
Holmes’ lawyers argued that for over a decade, she and Balwani — who was 20 years older and met Holmes when she was an 18-year-old Stanford student — had an abusive relationship that included “monitoring her calls, text messages, and emails; physical violence, such as throwing hard, sharp objects at her, restricting her sleep, monitoring her movements; and insisting that any success she achieved was because of him,” as reported by CNBC.
While it’s not certain what strategy will be used in Holmes’ defense, the Wall Street Journal notes that her lawyers wrote it’s “highly likely Holmes would testify” about Balwani’s abusive behavior. Balwani’s lawyers also filed seeking separate trials, denying those claims of abusive behavior and said her allegations would prejudice potential jurors. According to his lawyer Jeffrey Coopersmith, “Ms. Holmes’ allegations are deeply offensive to Mr. Balwani, devastating personally to him.”
The documents submitted by Holmes’ lawyers show they’ve collected testimony from experts that could be used in a mental-health defense, arguing that she suffers from PTSD, intimate-partner abuse syndrome, and depression due to Balwani and another incident. According to the filings revealed by the Wall Street Journal, they could argue that “a result of her deference to Mr. Balwani, she believed that various representations were true.”
Jury selection for the Elizabeth Holmes trial is set to begin on Tuesday in San Jose, with Balwani’s trial scheduled to begin in 2022.