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A California judge dismissed nine potential jurors from the selection pool at Elizabeth Holmes' trial because they are unvaccinated, which is leading to questions as the whether his decision will affect the outcome in the fraud case.
This week, seven men and five women were selected to decide the fate of the former CEO and founder of Theranos after two days of questioning. U.S. District Judge Edward Davila made the decision Tuesday to excuse the citizens who turned up for jury duty in San Jose, citing health reasons, Reuters reports. While the move is certainly within the judge’s power, concern has been vocalized that the decision could slant the fairness and impartiality of the jury.
“If you excuse those [unvaccinated] people, you no longer have a representative jury," Christina Marinakis, a jury consultant with litigation consulting company IMS, told Reuters.
Hadar Aviram, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, echoed that sentiment, telling Reuters that the decision may result in a jury that does not represent the general population. Reuters noted that data from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that a higher percentage of vaccinated people are white, female, and registered with the Democratic Party.
CNN reported earlier this week that the jurors in the Holmes trial are a diverse group — both ethnically and in age.
More than 80 potential jurors were questioned this week about an array of issues for the upcoming criminal trial of the disgraced tech entrepreneur in a San Jose federal courtroom, including how exposed they were to media coverage of Holmes, their feelings regarding law enforcement and any personal experience they may have with domestic abuse. Earlier this week, it was reported that Holmes’ defense team plans to accuse her ex-boyfriend and former top executive Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani of intimate partner violence. In the former CEO's defense, they plan to claim that Holmes was unable to deceive investors because of the controlling nature of the former couple's relationship.
A person who worked at Safeway, a company that once partnered with Theranos, and an attorney who represents domestic violence survivors were among the excused potential jurors.
Holmes founded the blood-testing start-up company Theranos in 2003 and claimed to have created technology that can test a patient's blood using just a few drops. While her company was, at its height, valued at around $9 billion, it came crashing down when she was indicted in 2018 on multiple counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Prosecutors allege she defrauded numerous investors, as well as doctors and patients, with her false claims about the technology her company had supposedly developed.
Holmes has entered a not guilty plea to the charges. Her trial has been delayed multiple times due to the COVID-19 pandemic and was further postponed due to Holmes' pregnancy; she gave birth to her first child in July.
Opening statements are set to begin on September 8 and the trial is expected to last about 13 weeks.
Holmes faces 20 years in prison if convicted. Balwani, who has also entered a not guilty plea, is slated to stand trial after Holmes' trial concludes. He also faces 20 years in prison if convicted.
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