A judge dismissed nine people from the jury pool in the Elizabeth Holmes fraud trial because they had not received a coronavirus vaccine.
U.S. District Judge Edward Davila said that he made the decision to keep jurors and their families healthy, but critics say it might skew the jury.
“If you excuse those (unvaccinated) people, you no longer have a representative jury,” Christina Marinakis, a jury consultant with litigation consulting company IMS, said in a Reuters report.
Reuters reported the gender, age, and ethnicity of the nine excused jurors is unknown, “but vaccinated Americans are more likely to be older, female, white, college educated and Democratic.”
Data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows 70 percent of white Americans have been vaccinated, compared to 65 percent of Black Americans; 71 percent of females, compared to 63 percent of males; and 86 percent of Democrats, compared to 54 percent of Republicans.
While both the prosecution and defense in the Holmes’ trial backed the decision to excuse unvaccinated jurors, the issue could be grounds for challenging a verdict in cases where the parties do not agree.
Hadar Aviram, a professor at University of California Hastings College of the Law who specializes in civil rights, said that in general, the demographic disparities resulting from excusing unvaccinated jurors would not run afoul of the Constitution, since the rationale for excluding them was not discriminatory. But she said screening by vaccination status could lead to a jury that is unrepresentative of the general population in meaningful ways. Unvaccinated jurors are more likely to be politically conservative than liberal, she said.
“Any unusual restrictions on who is eligible to serve on the jury in a particular case could raise issues on appeal,” said Kaspar Stoffelmayr, an attorney with law firm Bartlit Beck, said in the Reuters report.
The Hill reported on the fraud trial:
Theranos, a now-defunct blood testing startup, raised a significant amounts of money from investors in its heyday, but a 2015 investigation by the Wall Street Journal showed that there were limitations to the company’s technology, which ultimately affected the viability of the business later on.
Holmes is now facing multiple counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Her ex-boyfriend and former Theranos president, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, will have his own fraud trial.
Court filings indicate that Holmes will likely testify during her trial and they also indicate a possible defense strategy that alleges that Holmes suffered abuse against Balwani, affecting her ability to make decisions.
Davila was appointed by President Barack Obama.
Follow Penny Starr on Twitter or send news tips to email@example.com.