Many who formed opinions about Elizabeth Holmes after watching a documentary about her, reading the bestselling book or listening to a podcast on her former startup Theranos have been puzzling over why the jury has been debating the case against her for five days, NPR reports. Theranos, once valued at $9 billion, imploded after failing to meet its promises. Many of its blood tests were secretly conducted on third-party commercial blood analyzer machines unbeknownst to investors and patients, who assumed the company's "innovative" device was doing the processing. Patients reported inconsistent, flawed or flat-out false results. The image of Holmes as a fraudster in popular culture is not so clear-cut when examined with a legal lens. "The difference in this case versus a case of someone dealing cocaine is if you're caught with a suitcase of cocaine, that's a problem," said Brian Klein, a Los Angeles defense lawyer and former prosecutor. "Whereas here, running a startup, trying to develop a new technology for blood testing, that's all very legal. The question becomes, 'what were you thinking when you were doing these things?' And that's really hard to get to."
Holmes' side of the story adds complexity to what the government is trying to sell to jurors. She took a gamble and testified over seven days. It is rare for a defendant in a white-collar criminal case to take the witness stand, because that exposes them to sometimes withering cross examination from the government. For jurors, there is a lot mixing together: the alleged crimes, the high standard of the law and the persuasiveness of Holmes, a seasoned pitchwoman who brought in nearly $1 billion in investment after becoming the public face of the company. For five days, jurors have been deliberating Holmes' fate, trying to come to consensus on the charges under 39 pages of instruction from Judge Edward Davila. They have sent two questions to the judge. The first was whether they could take the jury instructions home. The answer: no. The second question was about a 2013 recording of Holmes talking up Theranos to potential investors. The recording was replayed for the jurors.