Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes’ mental health records to be released

A federal judge Thursday ordered the public release of documents concerning Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes’ psychological evaluation and trial strategy, partially lifting a veil on her relationship with her chief operating officer and mental state on the eve of a blockbuster trial.

U.S. District Judge Edward Davila sided with publisher Dow Jones seeking to unseal documents related to court-ordered psychological examinations of Holmes, the fallen Silicon Valley superstar, and various evidence that led to separate trials for Holmes and ex-boyfriend and former company president Sunny Balwani.

The material could provide a wealth of detail into the personal relationship between the two fallen executives now facing separate criminal trials. Holmes’ lawyers have suggested in court filings she may have been the victim of an abusive relationship. No details have emerged to support evidence of interpersonal abuse or trauma.

Davila said in a video conference he expected documents, with some exceptions and personal information remaining redacted, to be released by Friday evening. Holmes’ criminal trial is scheduled to begin Tuesday.

Davila said the court can protect defendants from tainted jurors and protect the public’s right to information about a criminal trial. “We’re living in a different time. News is instantaneous,” Davila said. “It’s all around us … we should expect that jurors are going to be exposed.”

Holmes, a Stanford dropout, faces multiple felony fraud charges stemming from the collapse of the Palo Alto health and life sciences startup, once valued at $9 billion with a VIP list of investors and a promise to revolutionize blood testing and diagnosis. Prosecutors allege the fraud totaled at least $700 million. Holmes disputes the charges, which carry a sentence of up to 20 years and a $2.75 million fine.

The Wall Street Journal’s aggressive reporting on Theranos exposed many flaws in the company’s science and management. A lawyer for the media company argued the many key materials in the case have been kept secret, when the public should have access to the information.

Balwani’s lawyer, Jeffrey Coopersmith, argued release of the materials would cause a media frenzy that would be 10 or 100 times worse for his client than Holmes. The attention would prejudice a jury pool against Balwani and ruin his chances at a fair trial, he said. The former company executive is scheduled to go to trial early next year. “In this case, material has to remain sealed,” he said.

An attorney for Holmes did not object to the release of health records, but requested the materials be unsealed after a jury has been chosen. Holmes has asked to bring an expert witness, Cal State Fullerton psychologist Mindy Mechanic, to testify on her behalf. Mechanic researches relationship trauma and domestic abuse, according to her university biography.

Federal prosecutors rejected arguments that news coverage and publicity around Theranos will make it difficult for the defendants to get a fair trial in Silicon Valley. They did not object to the release of court records.

Potential jurors screened by the court in recent days have shown limited awareness of Theranos and just passing knowledge of the case, prosecutor Kelly Volkar said. Roughly half of Santa Clara County jurors screened had never heard of Theranos, Holmes or Balwani, she said. About three-quarters did not know Balwani.

Even some potential jurors who said they knew about the case through books, long-form podcasts or television reports said they could serve impartially. In Santa Clara County, Volkar told the court, it is “entirely possible for these defendants to receive a fair jury.”

Neither Holmes nor Balwani attended the video hearing Thursday.

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