Elizabeth Holmes trial: Defense attorneys for Theranos founder argue 'failure is not a crime'

Trial under way for Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes

Jury selection begins for Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes. FOX Business’ Lydia Hu with the latest.

Attorneys for Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes argued during opening statements at her hotly anticipated fraud trial on Wednesday she was a naïve entrepreneur who failed to establish her blood-testing startup as a viable business.

Federal prosecutors and Holmes’ lawyers delivered contradictory accounts in their first remarks to the jurors in the San Jose courtroom. Holmes stands accused of defrauding investors and the public by claiming her now-defunct startup’s blood-testing machine was capable of functions it couldn’t perform.

"In the end, Theranos failed and Ms. Holmes walked away with nothing," Holmes’ defense lawyer Lance Wade said, according to Reuters. "But failure is not a crime. Trying your hardest and coming up short is not a crime."

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Wade added that Holmes was "all in on Theranos, motivated by its mission, not money, committed to that mission until that very last day."

Holmes, 37, was once considered a rising business star. Theranos drew a $9 billion valuation while Holmes touted a breakthrough device that could perform an array of medical tests with just a few drops of a patient’s blood. But the company collapsed after a series of Wall Street Journal reports revealed the technology did not work as Holmes claimed.

Jury selection begins in trial of Elizabeth Holmes

Theranos CEO Holmes faces wire fraud and conspiracy charges. Payne Capital Management President Ryan Payne and trial attorney Heather Hansen discusses the latest updates from the case.

Federal prosecutors argued Holmes was aware that Theranos’ technology was ineffective. They alleged she lied to investors to enrich herself and maintain a steady flow of cash into her business.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Leach outlined several instances in which Holmes allegedly lied to investors with claims that Theranos’ devices were being used by the U.S. military on battlefields and drawing interest from major pharmaceutical firms.  

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"This is a case about fraud, about lying and cheating to get money," Leach said.

Both legal teams made references to former Theranos chief operating officer Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani, whom Holmes once dated and faces his own trial on fraud charges.

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Holmes’ attorney indicated in court filings that she allegedly endured an abusive relationship with Balwani, according to reports. Balwani has denied the claims.

Holmes faces 10 counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. She has pleaded not guilty. Each count of wire fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

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