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Elizabeth Holmes' trial to play out before face-masked jurors in socially distanced courtroom

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Key Points
  • Elizabeth Holmes' trial will begin on March 9, 2021 with jury selection.
  • U.S. District court Judge Edward Davila ruled Wesnesday that jurors and witnesses will wear clear face masks
  • Holmes' defense attorneys also raised concerns over the government's ongoing investigation.
Elizabeth Holmes
David Orrell | CNBC

In what is expected to be one of the most high profile trials in years, Elizabeth Holmes will face jurors wearing clear face masks in a socially distanced courtroom, a judge said Wednesday.

The trial, to begin March 9, 2021 at a San Jose federal courthouse is expected to play out over two to four months.

U.S. District Judge Edward Davila on Tuesday revealed a map of the reconfigured courtroom where 14 jurors will be seated socially distanced to decide on Holmes' fate.

"It's going to be a very different trial, of course, in the Covid timeframe," said Davila, who added there will be air filtration units at the witness stand.

Holmes' attorneys expressed their concern over certain witnesses testifying in the courtroom with other people.

"I anticipate there will be strong reactions from witnesses, particularly witnesses who are over the age of 65, or who have some sort of health conditions," said Lance Wade, an attorney for Holmes.

A highly recognizable lineup of political figures is expected to be called as witnesses in trial including former Theranos board members and investors such as former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and media titan Rupert Murdoch.

Jury summonses will be mailed around Dec. 30. Available jurors will receive a Survey Monkey questionnaire, drafted by the government and defense attorneys, the week of Feb. 15. Three groups of 20 prospective jurors will then be chosen to begin jury selection on March 9.

Holmes' pre-trial hearings have been conducted over Zoom during the pandemic, as courtrooms around the country closed.

The former Silicon Valley darling and her blood-testing company, Theranos, came crashing down after a Wall Street Journal investigation in 2018 exposed the unproven technology and dubious business practices.

Holmes and her co-defendant Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani each face a dozen felony fraud charges and 20 years in prison if convicted.

Defense attorneys also raised concern over the government's ongoing investigation into Holmes.

"We're on the eve of trial and the idea that there's an ongoing investigation and tens of thousands of pages continue to rain down on the defense is not particularly fair," Wade said. "The government is asking us to continue to shoo a galloping horse."

Davila said he wants the trial to be fair for both sides, adding "it's a serious case but it's a wire fraud case and wire fraud cases are the most commonly tried in our courts."

Among the 20 motions filed in the last two weeks are Holmes' request to block intimate messages between her and Balwani, whom she dated, as well as not disclosing her luxurious lifestyle to the jury.

Hearings on those motions are expected to take place in January.

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