Jurors in Elizabeth Holmes Trial Appear Deadlocked on Some Charges

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SAN JOSE, Calif. — Jurors in the trial of Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of the blood testing start-up Theranos, reiterated late Monday that they were unable to agree on three of the 11 counts in her fraud case after earlier being instructed by the judge to keep going.

The jury of eight men and four women has spent over 46 hours over seven days so far deliberating whether Ms. Holmes, 37, is guilty of two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and nine counts of wire fraud. Each fraud count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

The deliberations follow a more than three-month-long trial for Ms. Holmes that laid bare the worst excesses of Silicon Valley’s start-up culture, where founders regularly stretch the truth in search of fortune and fame. Yet entrepreneurs rarely take their exaggerations as far as Ms. Holmes did, and are often not prosecuted. Ms. Holmes styled herself after Steve Jobs and said she planned to revolutionize health care with her start-up.

On Monday morning, jurors sent a note saying they were deadlocked on three of the counts. They did not elaborate on which of the counts were at issue. Judge Edward J. Davila of the Northern District of California, who is overseeing the case, instructed them to continue deliberating.

In the afternoon, the jury returned with a second note saying they could not reach a verdict on the three charges after trying again. After the judge polled the jurors to confirm they were deadlocked, they were instructed to fill out a verdict form on the counts they agreed on.

Jury deliberations are underway in the fraud trial of Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of the blood testing start-up Theranos.

The jurors had asked no questions of the court since Dec. 23, when they asked to listen to audio recordings in which Ms. Holmes allegedly misled investors about Theranos’s business relationships. They also asked to take jury instructions home, which the court denied.

If the jury is unable to reach a verdict on all of the counts, Judge Davila could accept a verdict on the counts they do agree on, said Andrew George, a white-collar defense lawyer at the firm Baker Botts. That would mean Ms. Holmes could be retried on the three counts.

But a retrial is less likely if she is found guilty on the other counts, Mr. George said. “The government will have won,” he said.

He added that a partial verdict was not ideal in a long trial because “it’s dissatisfying for all involved” but that “the nightmare of a total mistrial is very unlikely.”

Ms. Holmes’s trial has stood out for its length and its meandering pace. Judge Davila has allowed her lawyers to grill certain witnesses for days and indulged long procedural debates that delayed many days of testimony.

Since Ms. Holmes’s trial began in September, a number of prominent criminal trials — including those of Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William Bryan Jr., who killed Ahmaud Arbery; Kyle Rittenhouse, who shot three men in Kenosha, Wis., in 2020; and Kim Potter, the police officer who killed Daunte Wright — have come and gone. Last week, a jury found Ghislaine Maxwell guilty of conspiring with disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein to recruit, groom and sexually abuse underage girls.

It is not unusual for deliberations in white-collar trials to be lengthy, especially in complex fraud cases in which defendants are charged with multiple counts that span multiple years.

In 2007, a jury took 12 days to convict Conrad Black, a press tycoon, of fraud after a 14-week trial that involved 13 counts. Martin Shkreli, the infamous former hedge fund manager, was convicted of securities fraud after five days of deliberations in 2017 following a five-week trial.

In Ms. Holmes’s case, the jury must sift through 14 weeks of testimony and more than 900 pieces of evidence as they decide whether Ms. Holmes intentionally deceived investors, patients and advertisers in the pursuit of investments and business for her blood testing start-up.

Ms. Holmes founded Theranos in 2003. She dropped out of Stanford in 2004 and spent the next decade raising nearly $1 billion from investors and signing contracts with Walgreens and Safeway.

But The Wall Street Journal revealed in 2015 that Theranos’s blood-testing devices could perform only a dozen tests, contrary to Ms. Holmes’s claims of more than 1,000 to investors, business partners and the public. Theranos officially shuttered in 2018 amid scandal.

Prosecutors called 29 witnesses as they attempted to prove that Ms. Holmes “chose fraud over business failure,” as Jeff Schenk, an assistant U.S. attorney, said during closing arguments.

The defense’s case rested primarily on Ms. Holmes’s own testimony. She said she believed her own claims and pointed fingers at her senior employees, including Ramesh Balwani, her ex-boyfriend and Theranos’s former chief operating officer. Mr. Balwani, who faces identical charges, is scheduled to stand trial beginning in February.