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Elizabeth Holmes' Defense May Include Claims Of 'Mental Disease,' Court Docs Suggest

Elizabeth Holmes is facing numerous fraud charges related to allegations that she swindled investors, doctors, and patients with her claims of revolutionary blood testing.

By Sharon Lynn Pruitt

Disgraced tech wunderkind Elizabeth Holmes may be planning a criminal defense that cites her alleged "mental disease," recent reports suggest.

As the founder of blood-testing start-up company Theranos, Holmes is alleged to have defrauded numerous investors, as well as doctors and patients, by claiming to have created technology making it possible to test a patient's blood using only a few drops of it. While her company was, at its height, believed to be worth $9 billion, Holmes' house of cards came crashing down when she was indicted in 2018 on multiple counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, ABC News reports. 

Holmes has entered a not guilty plea to the charges, and new court documents suggest that her legal team is planning a defense related to "mental disease ... or defect," CNN reports. A judge in California ruled this week that prosecutors would be allowed to have a psychologist and a psychiatrist of their choosing interview Holmes, a ruling that brought to light Holmes' lawyers' plan to "introduce expert evidence relating to a mental disease or defect or any other mental condition of the defendant bearing on ... the issue of guilt," according to the outlet.

Elizabeth Holmes

Holmes' legal team has tapped Dr. Mindy Mechanic, a psychology professor at California State University, Fullerton, to testify, Bloomberg reports. Mechanic is a clinical psychologist who specializes in trauma, interpersonal violence, violence against women, and the psychological effects of those experiences, her university biography states.

A judge ruled in April that Holmes' trial be pushed to October 2020 due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

"We're in unchartered waters and unchartered territories," U.S. District Judge Edward Davila said, according to CNBC. "We need to make sure the environment is safe for all parties, including the jury that's called to hear the matter."

The trial was moved again in August, this time to March 2021, according to another CNBC report.

Holmes faces 20 years in prison if convicted, as does her co-defendant, former Therano COO Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, CNBC reports. Balwani, who has also entered a not guilty plea, is slated to stand trial after Holmes' trial concludes, according to CNN.