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Published on June 13, 2024
Former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes Seeks Appeal in Bay Area, Challenging Fraud Conviction at Ninth Circuit CourtSource: Getty Images / Justin Sullivan

Former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes returned to Bay Area courts—via legal representatives—to contest her conviction. Holmes, who is serving an 11-year sentence for fraud-related charges linked to the collapse of the health technology company, is vying for an appeal before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, as reported by CBS News San Francisco. Her case has drawn notable attention, not just for the audacity of the initial fraud but also for the wider implications it holds for ethics in startup culture.

During the hearing, Holmes' attorney Amy Saharia argued that the jury acquitted Holmes on several counts and could not reach a verdict on others, casting doubt according to the defense's perspective on the soundness of the government's case. "There were in fact many good people working at Theranos, and believing they had good technology. Holmes believed that, and that is what she was telling investors," Saharia said, per the Courthouse News. Holmes' appeals also challenge the government's utilization of a doctor's testimony and the extent of Holmes' knowledge of various aspects of the fraud.

The three-judge panel, comprising Judges Mary Schroeder, Jacqueline Nguyen, and Ryan Nelson, questioned both sides but offered little indication of their leanings. Holmes' legal team claimed that the government relied on assumptions rather than concrete evidence regarding Holmes' understanding of the fraud being committed. In a separate but concurrent appeal, Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani, Holmes' former partner and co-conspirator, is attempting to overturn a 13-year sentence relating to related charges. As CBS News San Francisco reports, Balwani's legal team argues that federal prosecutors distorted evidence to bias the jury.

Federal prosecutors, on the other hand, maintain that any potential errors in the trial process were harmless considering the litigated depth of the case before trial. Kelly Volkar told the court, "This was a case where sometimes every motion was litigated to death," emphasizing the considered nature of the court's decision-making process. Additionally, the issue of restitution to defrauded investors was raised, with attorneys for Holmes suggesting that the district court erred in calculating the intrinsic value of Theranos, as detailed by Courthouse News. The ruling on the appeals is awaited, with the Ninth Circuit providing no specific timeline for its decision.

While the appellate battle unfolds, the specter of the Theranos saga continues to loom in the public conscience—an enduring cautionary tale of unbridled ambition colliding with unyielding reality. Holmes began serving her sentence in Bryan, Texas, void of the sterile innovation theatres she once promised would revolutionize healthcare—a stark contrast mirrored by Balwani's confinement in Southern California, as previous noted by Hoodline SF. The outcomes of these appeals may not rewrite the history of Theranos, but they could offer a new chapter in the jurisprudence of tech industry ethics and accountability.