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Elizabeth Holmes May Claim 'Mental Disease' in Theranos Criminal Case

SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) -- Elizabeth Holmes, the founder and former CEO of Theranos, may seek a "mental disease" defense in her criminal fraud trial, according to a new court document.

Holmes, whose failed biotech company purported to have revolutionized blood testing and was once valued at $9 billion, was indicted on federal wire fraud charges in June 2018, along with Theranos' former COO. The indictment alleged they engaged in a multi-million-dollar scheme to defraud investors, as well as a scheme to defraud doctors and patients. They could face up to 20 years in prison.

Elizabeth Holmes at U.S. District Court in San Jose
Elizabeth Holmes, founder and former CEO of Theranos, arrives at the U.S. District Courthouse in San Jose, California in November 2019. (Yichuan Cao via Getty Images)

The trial, which was initially set to begin this summer but was delayed due to the global pandemic, is now slated to start in March.

This week, Judge Edward Davila of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted federal prosecutors the ability to have Holmes examined by two experts -- a psychologist and a psychiatrist -- over two consecutive days and for no more than 14 hours combined. The ruling comes after Holmes' defense team previously notified the government of intent to "introduce expert evidence relating to a mental disease or defect or any other mental condition of the defendant bearing on ... the issue of guilt," according to the filing.

The judge ruled that a video recording of the examination is warranted, despite objections from Holmes' defense, according to the filing.

Holmes' attorneys did not immediately respond to request for comment.

As reported by Bloomberg News, Holmes' intends to use testimony from Dr. Mindy Mechanic, who is referenced by last name in the filing.

A clinical psychologist at California State University Fullerton, Mechanic's "work focuses on the psychosocial consequences of violence, trauma and victimization with an emphasis on violence against women and other forms of interpersonal violence," according to the university's website. Dr. Mechanic did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Former Theranos COO and president Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani and Holmes will be tried separately, with Balwani's trial slated to begin after Holmes' has ended. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Balwani's attorney declined to comment.

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