Mental Health to Play a Role in the Defense Strategy for Elizabeth Holmes

Mental Health_Compressed

Elizabeth Holmes, the founder and former chief executive officer of failed diagnostics company Theranos, will be examined by a psychologist and psychiatrist ahead of her looming trial for fraud.

Holmes's state of mind and her mental health are expected to be part of her legal team’s strategy for the trial. In a filing submitted to the court, and first reported by Bloomberg, Holmes’ attorneys intend to “introduce expert evidence relating to a mental disease or defect or any other mental condition of the defendant bearing on ... the issue of guilt.” The Holmes legal team expects to use testimony from Dr. Mindy Mechanic, a clinical psychologist at California State University, Fullerton.

While the Holmes team has not publicly alluded to the former Theranos executive’s mental state of mind, Mechanic’s area of expertise centers on the “psychosocial consequences of violence, trauma and victimization with an emphasis on violence against women and other forms of interpersonal violence,” CNN reported, citing CSU’s website. Information as to what Mechanic will testify about has been redacted on the filing.

Following the Holmes’ disclosure of including mental health-related testimony as part of their defense, this week U.S. District Court Judge Edward Davila ordered that Holmes will be evaluated by the psychologist and psychiatrist for the government. The two experts will be allowed to interview and examine Holmes for a combined total of 14 hours. The sessions will be videoed. CNN reported the recordings will be made over the objections of Holmes’ attorneys.  

The Holmes trial was scheduled to begin this past summer, but has been delayed until March 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Holmes and former Theranos President Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, were initially charged with multiple counts of fraud in 2018 related to the blood-testing company, Theranos. From 2013 to 2015 Holmes and Balwani raised more than $700 million from investors through what the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission called “years-long fraud” in which they exaggerated or lied about the efficacy of the company’s proprietary technology and the state of its finances, according to the complaint. The company also made false claims about its relationship with the Department of Defense and its regulatory status with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration during that time period.

While the Theranos duo touted the technology it never produced any supporting evidence in peer-reviewed publications. The company relied on the personality of Holmes to push the false narrative about the technology. As a result of the alleged fraudulent promises made to investors, the valuation of Theranos swelled to $9 billion and made Holmes one of the youngest billionaires in the United States.

The prosecution added additional charges against the duo, but those were dropped in July. Additional fraud charges were dropped by Davila in February.

Balwani’s trial is expected to begin following the conclusion of Holmes’ trial.

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