Elizabeth Holmes jury deadlocked on 3 charges; judge sends it back to deliberate

A jury said it was deadlocked on three charges Monday in the federal trial of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, a monthslong examination into whether she duped investors in her failed blood-testing startup.

The jury, which has been deliberating for seven days in the fraud trial, sent a note to the judge saying it was unable to decide on three of the 11 fraud counts. Holmes, the face of a modernized blood test, potentially faces 20 years in prison, fines and potential restitution to defrauded investors.

Judge Edward J. Davila, at the prosecutor’s request, read the jury instructions known as an “Allen charge” — telling it to resume deliberations and attempt to reach a verdict on the three charges.

“As jurors, you have a duty to discuss the case with one another and to deliberate in an effort to reach an unanimous verdict, if each of you can do so without violating your individual judgment and conscience,” Davila read.

“You should not, however, change an honest belief as to the weight or effect of the evidence solely because of the opinions of your fellow jurors or for the mere purpose of returning a verdict,” he said.

Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes arrives for her fraud trial at federal court in San Jose, Calif., on Monday.Brittany Hosea-Small / Reuters

But he also told the jury it shouldn’t feel pressured to quickly return a verdict.

“Take as much time as you need to discuss things,” Davila added. “There is no hurry.” 

At the defense’s request, the judge also read the jury instructions reminding them of how defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty and of the burden of proof.

The jury was then sent back to the deliberation room to continue considering the charges.

The “Allen charge” is “dreaded” by defense lawyers, NBC News legal analyst Danny Cevallos said.

“Defense attorneys don’t like it because we assume that the minority are holdouts for acquittal. It pressures them to give up and go along with the guilty folks,” Cevallos said.

If the jury can’t come to an agreement on the three remaining counts, then it is possible it would only reach a verdict on the other eight counts and a mistrial would be declared on the three unresolved counts. Those three counts could then be retried, Cevallos said.

It’s not known on which three specific charges the jury is deadlocked. Holmes faces two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and nine counts of wire fraud. Six of those counts refer to allegedly defrauding investors, and three refer to allegedly defrauding patients: two to individual patients and one to advertisements patients saw.

The note from the jury is just the third such note produced during the deliberations. The first asked if the jury could take the jury instructions home to review. The request was denied. The second, on Dec. 23, asked for audio clips of a 2013 call Holmes had with investors to be played.

Holmes and her co-defendant, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, face multiple counts of wire fraud and conspiracy tied to her efforts to entice investment to Theranos, her failed blood-testing startup company that ceased operations in 2018.

Holmes said her revolutionary invention could offer comprehensive diagnostic results with a simple finger prick. But The Wall Street Journal reported in 2015 that Theranos devices were inaccurate, beginning the company’s eventual downfall. 

Federal prosecutors have said Holmes intentionally duped investors into supporting a product she knew was faulty, particularly as Theranos began to teeter on bankruptcy. 

Her defense argued that Holmes truly believed in her product, casting her as a young visionary who made mistakes.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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