The former Theranos laboratory manager has become a central topic of early interrogation in Elizabeth Holmes’ criminal trial. Late last week, the defense continued their cross-examination of one of the prosecutor’s key witnesses and tried to get Dr. To classify Adam Rosendorff as unreliable.
Three facts could harm Rosendorff in the eyes of the jury. Whether these facts diminish his previous testimony depends largely on Holmes’ defense team. In view of the damning facts that Rosendorff presented during the interrogation of the public prosecutor, this will be a difficult task. But discrediting key witnesses is something all defenses must seek.
Three series of questions
Rosendorff initially admitted when questioning Holmes’ attorney Lance Wade that he had endorsed the company’s controversial pseudo-policy regarding outliers. Although Theranos did not have an official guideline for eliminating outliers – although there were plenty of guides on how to do so – the company developed a framework called the “Six Tip Guideline”. Each sample gave six results, two of which were discarded and the remaining four averaged. The guideline says eliminating two was okay, but it didn’t help lab technicians identify the best candidates for an omission. So this is kind of a guideline, but it doesn’t cover everything it should have.
Second, Rosendorff seems to have had a stronger hand in developing and implementing laboratory protocols than his earlier testimony suggested. For one, he had signed an “alternate assessment process” for Theranos’ proprietary Edison devices, which are essentially a series of performance tests that differ from those used to validate other diagnostic devices. And he admitted that lab technician Erika Cheung had failed to use Rosendorff’s alternate method when she raised concerns about the Edison equipment failing quality control.
Rosendorff also worked with Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, Theranos President and COO, to edit a set of slides to instruct laboratory technicians on the company’s unique proficiency testing process. “Theranos tests have no peer groups,” it says on a slide.
Third, Rosendorff seems to have listened to senior management for most of his time at the company. About a month before he left, Rosendorff had been invited to a meeting with Balwani and other senior executives to voice his concerns about Theranos’ testing procedures. Rosendorff admitted under Wade’s questioning that there were no restrictions on what he could say at the meeting.
Out of the loop
Together, these three lines of questioning could undermine Rosendorff’s earlier statement. But other parts of Friday’s statement appeared to support his earlier statements.
For one, Balwani sent an email to a Theranos vice-president in June 2014, several months before Rosendorff’s resignation. The email said: “Adam came to my office EXTREMELY frustrated that he, as laboratory manager, was not kept up to date.” The jury also heard of residues from pregnancy tests that Rosendorff said he was not aware of. These more or less confirm what Rosendorff told the prosecution – that he was left out of the circle.
Another tactic by Wade may not have landed the way he intended. In a series of new emails, we learned that Rosendorff was slow to follow up on complaints. On two separate occasions, it took the lab manager more than a week to check with a doctor about questionable test results.
Now the jury could interpret this in different ways. Jurors could view Rosendorff as unreliable, which is what Wade probably wants. But you could also be more compassionate – after all, Rosendorff seems to have more complaints than a normal laboratory. In addition, he was constantly sparring with executives through the management of the laboratory. Given these fires, it’s easy to see why he moved “Answering Customer Complaints” lower on the list.
Taking a week to deal with a complaint may not be common practice in clinical laboratories, but Theranos clearly did not run a typical laboratory.
Offer picture by Jane Tyska / Digital First Media / The Mercury News