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Elizabeth Holmes fraud trial: Prosecutors fight to shield jurors from public eye

·3 min read

The private information of jurors deciding the fate of former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Homes is in jeopardy of disclosure, as prosecutors continue to battle against a media coalition’s request to unseal the jurors’ answers to sensitive pretrial questions.

On Monday, federal prosecutors argued in a court filing that jurors' answers to pretrial questions should be kept private for the duration of Holmes’ trial, and unsealed only in redacted form after it ends.

“During the interviews, all but two of the jurors expressed some level of concern regarding either their or their family’s privacy or safety/security or said that the release of certain information in their completed questionnaires would cause personal embarrassment,” prosecutors wrote.

Holmes is charged with fraud in connection with her failed blood diagnostics company, Theranos, which raised more than $700 million from investors and was valued at $9 billion before it imploded under regulatory and legal investigations. She has pleaded not guilty.

Twelve jurors will decide the fate of Holmes, whose case has spawned a best-selling book, multiple documentaries including one from Yahoo Finance, and a podcast. Three jurors have already had to step aside and be replaced by alternates.

In arguing for jurors' privacy, prosecutors contend that while the First Amendment entitles media access to criminal trials, it stops short of absolute access — especially where interests of privacy, safety, and security of the jurors and their families and ensuring a fair trial are at issue.

Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes exits Robert F. Peckham U.S. Courthouse with her attorneys after the first day of federal court hearings, in San Jose, California, U.S. May 4, 2021.  REUTERS/Kate Munsch
Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes exits Robert F. Peckham U.S. Courthouse with her attorneys after the first day of federal court hearings, in San Jose, California, U.S. May 4, 2021. REUTERS/Kate Munsch

While Holmes was initially neutral on the subject, now she's backing the push to keep the jurors' information private. "Following the juror colloquies...Holmes now opposes that motion," Holmes lawyers said in a filing. "Disclosure would distract the jurors and expose them to outside information and influence, and the prospect of post-verdict harassment would threaten to taint their decision-making as they deliberate in this case."

Jurors cite health, past history concerns 

All prospective jurors completed a 28-page written questionnaire, and certain members of the pool answered additional questions posed by federal district Judge Edward Davila and the parties’ lawyers.

According to the prosecutors, several jurors raised concerns over disclosure of information about their family members, including their children, some of whom are minors. They also said some jurors expressed privacy concerns over personal health issues and their answers to Question 32, which asked jurors if they or someone close to them had been the victim of any kind of crime.

In a separate motion, Holmes’ attorney John Cline emphasized that the court promised to keep completed questionnaires under seal and disclose them only with names and identifying information removed. 

In August, Judge Davila granted the media companies the right to intervene in Holmes’ case solely to request that the court unseal a group of documents, including the questionnaire. Judge Davila granted the request in part, though held back on the decision over the questionnaires.

Over a two-day period earlier in October, the court conducted interviews with the jurors to provide them with an opportunity to express concerns over the release of their information. During the interviews, prosecutors say, more than one juror also expressed concern over unwanted media attention and negative implications such attention could pose to their respective families and their work environments.

News organizations requesting the sealed documents include ABC News, the Associated Press, Bloomberg, Dow Jones, NBCUniversal, The New York Times, Washington Post, The Daily Mail, and others.

Alexis Keenan is a legal reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow Alexis on Twitter @alexiskweed.

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