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Will Elizabeth Holmes Testify in the Theranos Trial?

The stage is set for what could be the most dramatic moment of the criminal trial of Elizabeth Holmes, founder of the failed start-up Theranos.

After 11 weeks of court proceedings plagued by delays, prosecutors appear prepared to rest their case soon. Then the defense will be up.

The defense lawyers’ list of potential witnesses includes Holmes, the former Silicon Valley darling who has pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of wire fraud and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

“Taking the stand would be a risky move, but Holmes has shown she can be very persuasive and charismatic,” Erin Griffith, a reporter for The New York Times, told me. “And she’s clearly a risk-taker.”

Holmes dropped out of Stanford and started the blood-testing start-up Theranos at age 19. For years she convinced big-name investors of her company’s promise. At one point, Theranos was valued at $9 billion.

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But she and the company fell from grace after claims about its technology were shown to be false. Her downfall has captured the public imagination and spawned a documentary, book and podcast — and a mini-series based on that podcast.

Holmes, now 37 and a new mother, has been in the courtroom every day during the trial, but jurors have yet to hear her speak outside of recordings played as evidence. Her face is covered by a mask. And she sits so still that a courtroom artist said she’s particularly easy to sketch.

The Times reporter Erin Woo told me that she thought a key piece of the defense’s case might require Holmes to take the stand.

Holmes’s lawyers are expected to argue that she was manipulated by Sunny Balwani, Theranos’s former chief operating officer and Holmes’s former boyfriend. In court filings, Holmes has said Balwani, who faces a separate trial next year, was emotionally abusive and controlling.

But jurors so far haven’t heard much of this argument. And former Theranos employees are unlikely to be able to shed light on Holmes’s private life with Balwani, Woo told me.

“The two of them kept their relationship secret during their time at Theranos,” Woo said. “It seems like Holmes herself may have to testify to their relationship if her team wants jurors to understand what the inner workings of it were like.”

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