Elizabeth Holmes relies on the entourage of friends as the Theranos trial nears its end

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Health and Science

SAN JOSE, Calif. – As Elizabeth Holmes testifies in her own defense, she is getting a little help from her friends.

CNBC learned that Holmes called former friends and sororities of Kappa Alpha Theta at Stanford University and asked if they would go to court as a token of support. Not all of her friends accepted the invitation. A source close to the matter told CNBC that a friend pulled out because she was uncomfortable with the request.

Even so, a small group of women – some from Holmes’ early days at Stanford – are a regular part of the former Theranos CEO’s entourage, and it’s now growing while it’s on the stand.

The friends, who are often photographed out of court with Holmes, do not reveal themselves when asked. Social media detectives watching the process thought one of them was The woman who accompanied Holmes was Vanessa Kirby, the actress who played Princess Margaret in “The Crown” on Netflix.

When asked in court if she was Kirby, she said, “I don’t even know who that is.” But last week, while queuing to enter the courthouse, she told a reporter that her name was actually Vanessa. It wasn’t true.

Her name is actually Jackie Lamping. However, Lamping, who was in the same sorority as Holmes at Stanford, did not portray kings on screen. According to her LinkedIn page, she is a marketing director based in New York. She did not respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

The “seen with friends” strategy is indeed widespread, according to several legal analysts.

“The jury is watching the behavior of people who show up to support them,” said Katherine James, a Los Angeles litigation consultant. “There is a strong belief that if you have people the jury will like, it will rub off on you.”

But the strategy could work against them.

“I would be careful if I were Elizabeth Holmes,” said Alan Tuerkheimer, a Chicago attorney and litigation advisor. “Of course she’ll try to show a picture that will resonate with the jury, but if they see this as some sort of manipulative trick to impress her, it could backfire completely.”

Another friend who has turned up regularly has also dodged reporters’ questions about her name, only revealing that she played tennis and is traveling to San Jose for the trial.

When asked for her name by a reporter, the woman replied “I do not remember.” Like others to enter the courthouse early in the morning last week, she told CNBC that she is originally from Croatia, but her identity was elusive.

Although aloof from reporters, the two women hug and often chat with Holmes in the hallway during breaks. The questions about their identity are not the first time that a member of Holmes’ camp has not been so accommodating to the media.

At the beginning of the process, the father of her partner, William “Bill” Evans, casually dressed took part in the jury selection and said his name was “Hanson”. Evans sat in the back of the courtroom and said he was just a bystander. He did not return to court after NPR revealed his identity.

At the stand, Holmes showed a hint of remorse over the course of five days. For example, she told the jury, “I wish I had done it differently,” when asked if drug manufacturers’ logos should be included in Theranos lab reports sent to investors.

“I think she’s probably thinking, ‘I’ll beat this,’ she’s got a lot of optimism and I’m a little sorry. I don’t think my conversations with her feel guilty, ”said a former close friend of Holmes who spoke anonymously for fear of retaliation.

Holmes’ attorneys did not respond to CNBC’s request for comment. While Holmes’ statement took the trial watchers by surprise, people who know her tell CNBC that she wants to control the narrative.

“She has an arrogance that nobody can do a good job like me,” said another former friend who knew Holmes well and spoke anonymously for fear of retaliation. “My suspicion is that she had no intention of testifying, but after watching the process go through, she decided she was best placed to defend herself.”

Holmes, who was able to convince discerning investors to raise $ 945 million for Theranos, insists that she can convince the jury that she made mistakes but did not commit a crime.

“She has 945 million reasons to believe in her powers of persuasion and to be confident,” said the former friend. “She can’t help it, look at the circus she created around her by holding her mother’s hand, with whom she is not particularly close, and hiring acquaintances from Stanford for a show of force.”

A former Theranos employee who was close to Holmes and also asked not to be identified because they were on the witness list, said Holmes likely insisted on taking a stand.

“She has a really high tolerance for stress and risk,” said the person who is believed to be a former girlfriend. “That’s what entrepreneurs do. But the kind of risks Elizabeth has taken the vast majority of us would never take.”

At the stand, the jury and the public saw Holmes from a different angle when she portrayed her as the CEO of Theranos. Prosecutors have focused on the inconsistencies Holmes made against investors, journalists and in previous civil statements.

Faced with a potential jail sentence, all of Holmes’ former friends say she is banking on herself to clear her name.

As Holmes wrote to himself in a note shown in court this week, “I know the outcome of every encounter.”

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