Ex-Theranos CEO Holmes puts mental state at issue, to be examined by U.S. experts

The fallen Silicon Valley star's mental health is in focus

A federal judge ordered former Theranos Inc Chief Executive Elizabeth Holmes to be examined by U.S. government experts after lawyers defending her against criminal fraud charges said they may offer evidence she suffered from a mental disease or defect.

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In a decision late Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Edward Davila in San Jose, California overruled defense objections to letting a psychologist and psychiatrist chosen by the government examine the 36-year-old Holmes for 14 hours over two days, and having the examinations recorded on video.

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 14
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Davila authorized the examinations after Holmes’ lawyers said they intended to introduce expert evidence from a clinical psychologist “relating to a mental disease or defect or any other mental condition of the defendant bearing on the issue of guilt.”

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The defense expert, Mindy Mechanic, is a California State University at Fullerton professor specializing in psychosocial consequences of violence, trauma and victimization, including violence against women, and often testifies in cases involving interpersonal violence, according to her university biography.

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Lawyers for Holmes did not immediately respond on Thursday to requests for comment. The professor did not immediately respond to a similar request.

Wednesday’s decision was partially redacted. Holmes’ mental state had been previously discussed in sealed court documents and a closed July 8 hearing.

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Holmes and former Theranos President Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani have pleaded not guilty to charges they defrauded investors, doctors and patients by falsely claiming Theranos could revolutionize medical lab testing with technology that could enable a wide array of tests with a few drops of blood.

Before its unraveling, Theranos had been valued at $9 billion and made Holmes, a Stanford University dropout who founded the company in 2003 at age 19, a Silicon Valley star.

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Holmes’ trial is scheduled for March 2021. She and Balwani were originally indicted in June 2018. Balwani’s case is being handled separately.

The case is U.S. v. Holmes, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 18-cr-00258.