This day marked the beginning of what will likely be months of intense media scrutiny. The central concern in questioning potential jurors was that Holmes’s frenzy — which included multiple podcasts and documentaries on her rise, fall and fate — could bias the people who ultimately decide her fate.
Holmes arrived at Robert F. Peckham Federal Building just before 8:30 AM PT in a dark blue medical mask and blazer. Holmes was immediately surrounded in media personnel, many of whom arrived earlier than expected to get a place in the courtroom.
Over the course the day Holmes’ lawyers, federal prosecutors, and Judge Edward Davila interrogated potential jurors. On Tuesday, 13 of the 39 potential jurors were exempted due to financial hardship. Thursday will see 46 potential jurors being questioned.
Holmes, 37 years old, was arrested in connection with multiple federal fraud charges and conspiracy. She is accused of knowingly misleading the capabilities her company’s proprietary testing technology. Holmes pleaded guilty to the charges and could spend up to 20 years prison.
Holmes’ defense and her case are particularly concerned by the amount of exposure jurors could have to the media coverage about her and her company. Holmes’ company was a hot topic during its heyday. Holmes and her work were the focus of much media attention. She has yet to see her fall from grace, but there are still documentaries and a limited series that will be made, as well as a feature film, and at least two podcasts dedicated to the trial.
There will also be five alternates to the 12 jurors. The delay in the trial due to Theranos’ coronavirus pandemic, and Holmes’ birth may have made it difficult to find jurors with the right information.
Judge Davila used careful language when asking potential jurors questions about media coverage. He didn’t want respondents to share any details about their own media consumption about this case to prevent bias from other potential jurors. Judge Davila asked potential jurors when and where they’d read about Holmes and Theranos. He did not ask them specific details of the content. Potential jurors were told by Judge Davila that any strong or controversial opinions should be shared privately, not within the group.
Many potential jurors said they had come across information related to Holmes and Theranos on YouTube, Reddit, NPR, documentaries and Reddit. Many said that they believed they would be impartial and able to keep their opinions straight if they were selected. One said that he was notified by NPR about the jury selection beginning Tuesday. He said, “My initial thought was, ‘Yeah. Yeah, I know.'”
A potential juror claimed she had previously read “Bad Blood”, the authoritative book by John Carreyrou on Theranos’ rise and fall. According to her, she assumed that the fact that she indicated she read “Bad Blood” as part of an extensive potential questionnaire would make it ineligible for membership.
Others claimed they remembered hearing about Holmes and Holmes, but they couldn’t remember what exactly they had eaten. A potential juror stated that she thought she had seen “First Blood.”
Nearly 200 potential jurors filled out the 28-page long final jury questionnaire. This asked about their knowledge and media habits, as well as their vaccination status. According to court documents last week, roughly half of the respondents indicated that they have consumed media related to this case.
On Tuesday, the first person to be dismissed was a man who claimed he had worked at a radio station as a producer. The man claimed that the newsroom had covered jury selection in advance. He said that audio is always around him, and noted that news about the trial is difficult to ignore because of his job.
To avoid exposure to the media, Judge Davila recommended to prospective jurors that they disable their smartphones’ news notifications before taking a lunch break.
In anticipation of Theranos’ trial, coverage has increased significantly. Over the weekend, the court unsealed documents pertaining to Holmes’ possible defense — that she may claim she experienced a decade-long abusive relationship with her ex-boyfriend, also a former Theranos executive, who will be tried separately. According to court documents, he “adamantly denied” the allegations.
The potential jurors were asked if they have ever been subject to violence or interpersonal abuse. Many of them or their loved ones answered yes.
Pandemics have caused delays to the trial many times. Judge Davila stated that there was no attendance among the potential jurors today. He cited some people who called in complaining of symptoms, and they were asked to leave. Judge Davila stated that all staff members of the court had been given a vaccine and boasted about securing a $7 million HVAC system. He said, “The air in the courtroom is fully circulated approximately every 10 minutes.” I hope this gives you some comfort.
Potential jurors spoke out about the hardships they had experienced in the aftermath of the pandemic. They said they hoped to be able to enjoy much-needed vacations, but that they would have their lives disrupted by the lengthy trial.
Many other possible jurors who were not present in courtroom Tuesday afternoon were exempted from the proceedings for health reasons, including childcare, financial hardship and bias. They also had to attend school or work, as well as commute difficulties. The defense and attorneys for the prosecution have reached an agreement to exonerate any unvaccinated potential jurors. Nine jurors were exonerated for not having completed the questionnaire.
Publited at Wednesday, 01 September 2021 00.46:32 +0000