In the first day of her trial, Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes was described not as a villain but rather as a hard-working, young and naive businesswoman whose company simply failed.
That was the message from her defense attorney on Wednesday at the former Silicon Valley star's trial on federal fraud charges involving the now-defunct blood-testing startup once valued at $9 billion.
Holmes is being accused of making false claims that her company’s devices were designed to run a range of blood tests from a single drop of blood.
The prosecution and defense painted remarkably different portraits of Holmes in their opening statements to the 12-member jury in one of the most closely watched trials of a U.S. corporate executive in years.
Robert Leach, a member of the prosecution team, said Holmes had engaged in a scheme of "lying and cheating" to attain wealth and fame at the expense of investors and patients.
But Defense lawyer Lance Wade told jurors in San Jose, California, "In the end, Theranos failed and Ms. Holmes walked away with nothing," adding that “failure is not a crime.”
Prosecutors have said Holmes defrauded investors between 2010 and 2015 and deceived patients when the company began making its tests commercially available, including in a partnership with the Walgreens drugstore chain.
In 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Theranos devices were flawed and inaccurate, setting off a downward spiral for a company that had drawn investors including media mogul Rupert Murdoch and billionaire Larry Ellison.
Holmes has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy.
Former Theranos executive Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani has also pleaded not guilty. He is scheduled to be tried separately.