06/27/2024 - Theranos Founders Urge Federal Appeals Court to Overturn Conviction Due to Expert Witnesses

Lawyers for Theranos Company President Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani and founder Elizabeth Holmes have urged a federal appeals court to overturn their convictions for defrauding investors in the failed blood testing startup, that was once valued at $9 billion.

Holmes' lawyer, Amy Saharia, told a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco that Holmes believed she was speaking the truth when she told investors that Theranos's miniature blood testing device could accurately run a wide choice of medical diagnostic tests on a small amount of blood.

Elizabeth Holmes, who founded Theranos as a college student and became its chief promoter, was indicted alongside Balwani, her former boyfriend, in 2018. The couple were tried separately in 2022, and sentenced later that year to 11 years and three months, and 12 years and 11 months, respectively.

Her lawyer said the trial judge improperly allowed former Theranos employee Kingshuk Das to testify as a scientific expert about Theranos's product without making him face cross-examination about his qualifications.

Saharia also said the judge should have permitted Holmes to introduce more evidence attacking another key prosecution witness, Theranos's former laboratory director Adam Rosendorff, plus details of a government investigation of his work after leaving Theranos that she said called his competence into question.

Those mistakes could have made the difference in the "close" case, in which jurors were not able to come to a verdict on most counts against Holmes after seven days of deliberations.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kelly Volkar, arguing for the government, disputed that Das had improperly testified as an expert, saying he was called to talk about his personal experience at Theranos. She also said that "it was not really contested that the device did not work."
The judges had doubtful questions for both sides, and did not clearly indicate how they would rule. Circuit Judge Ryan Nelson said that, even without the disputed testimony, "there was, it seemed to me, pretty overwhelming evidence."