In closing arguments Monday, Elizabeth Holmes’ attorney described her ability to turn her startup, Theranos, around as little more than “an unbelievable story to get on Oprah.”
Just hours before, the prosecution’s top attorney, Brandon C. Lichtman, had accused Ms. Holmes of being less than truthful to people who entrusted her with their money. Under a stern cross-examination, Ms. Holmes conceded that she lied to investors and the United States Securities and Exchange Commission.
“The woman tried, but she couldn’t make an air medical device a reality. She was clearly not capable of doing what she said she was capable of doing,” Mr. Lichtman told the jury. “She is a lying liar. … She’s Ms. Holmes, the liar, the doctorate-in-chemistry and no M.D.”
Both sides delivered their closing arguments in the case against Theranos, a Silicon Valley company that has alleged illegal patent infringement by rival Quest Diagnostics. Testimony in the case — which has been underway for the last two weeks — has revealed that Theranos had only a fraction of the high-speed test technology it claimed to possess.
Ms. Holmes, a Stanford University dropout who is also a celebrity in the women’s health community, became the wealthiest self-made woman in the country when Theranos’s market value was as high as $9 billion. She has claimed that she developed the technology to create accurate diagnostic kits for blood pressure, glucose and other factors, but the government argued that she did not have such powerful technology in her laboratory.
As for the case itself, Mr. Lichtman said that the company had gone from taking on Quest by spending what she said were “a couple of hundred thousand dollars a week” to building something much more impressive. He said that the trial was not about money, but a few important facts, such as whether Theranos had invented something or whether Quest had infringed on several of the seven patents it had received.
“If she had a chip and a dog in the dog house, we would know about it,” Mr. Lichtman said of Ms. Holmes. “You are watching a guy waltz away with thousands of dog whistles, not tens of thousands of dog whistles.”
But if anything, his decision to focus on how great Ms. Holmes had become could seem like a defensive maneuver. He put much of his emphasis on the testimony of Ellen Walsh, a former Theranos employee who was once a close associate of Ms. Holmes and vouched for the company’s operations in an expert witness testimony in a securities case. He also showed jurors her CV, which includes time spent at Stanford, Harvard, Princeton and a stint at Milken Institute in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Mr. Lichtman played clips of Ms. Walsh telling reporters on the stand how grateful she was to Ms. Holmes for helping her pay for her young children’s education.
“She gave me a call in 2005 and made things happen for me,” she said.
Mr. Lichtman told the jury that Ms. Holmes helped make money and glory happen for the former employee, in a perfect example of a 50/50 partnership.
“Ellen Walsh will tell you that she did not go to Stanford and attend Harvard University because of Elizabeth Holmes,” he said. “She went to go to Stanford and attend Harvard.”
He also accused the prosecution of putting too much focus on a handful of failed Theranos experiments and paying them no attention during three years of taking Theranos to huge public meetings in San Francisco.
“It didn’t really matter what a heart was pumping,” he said. “These items were all there, because the ‘doctorate’ is in place.”
Ms. Holmes had worked as a physician’s assistant. She developed what she said was an invention, the Edison analyzer, which she said could revolutionize the way patients tested for chronic conditions. In February, 2017, a Theranos executive came up with a “profit model” that called for it to produce medical diagnostics using hardware supplied to Theranos by other companies. On Jan. 29, 2018, she informed the SEC that Theranos had not been as profitable as it had advertised.