Pro-Life Legal Team to Fight Back After Planned Parenthood Wins $1.3M in Sting Videos Case
Last Friday represented a significant setback for the pro-life movement in America. A jury found David Daleiden and his allies guilty of a slew of state and federal crimes involving the Planned Parenthood sting videos and awarded the abortion behemoth at least $1.3 million in damages. On Monday, Harmeet Dhillon, one of Daleiden's lawyers, told PJ Media that the "dream team" of First Amendment lawyers who argued the case would be mounting a formidable appeal — and that there are many reasons to think the historically liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals should reconsider the case.
"This case is far from over," Dhillon insisted. Daleiden "had a lot of defenses, he had a lot of witnesses we weren't allowed to call, evidence we weren't allowed to show the jury."
"Among the most important things we’ll be appealing is the court barring us from putting on evidence to support many of our defenses, barring certain witnesses and barring key evidence," the lawyer explained. "The jury only saw a very slanted and one-sided and blindered position. We should have gotten a different result."
The case centered on the actions of Daleiden, who leads the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), and Sandra Merritt. The two posed as human tissue procurers for the fake company BioMax to reveal how Planned Parenthood profits off of selling the body parts of aborted human babies. After CMP released the sting videos, many states launched investigations, and the Department of Justice opened an investigation into Planned Parenthood in 2017.
Planned Parenthood has repeatedly denied the allegations that it profited from the sale of aborted baby body parts, but Dhillon said that during the trial the abortion giant admitted the words in the videos were genuine.
The jury ruled that Daleiden and his allies — including Merritt, Albin Rhomberg, and Troy Newman — were guilty of breach of contract, fraud, state and federal recording violations, conspiracy, racketeering, unfair business practices, and trespass. The jury awarded Planned Parenthood and certain affiliates $870,000 in punitive damages and $478,000 in compensation for security costs and changes to their vetting process. If the RICO charges stand, that $478,000 will be tripled.
Dhillon insisted that the RICO charges are particularly unlikely to stand, however. "RICO requires a pattern of activity over a period of years. There is really no evidence submitted that buying a fake id and giving it to somebody is a RICO," she told PJ Media. "Planned Parenthood sets up fake shell companies to build its clinics. Planned Parenthood warns people at its conferences that they should be careful speaking because it’s not private."
The trial was stacked against Daleiden from the outset. The jury had "very little room to maneuver," Dhillon told PJ Media. "There were more than 50 pages of jury instructions and very complicated jury forms and the jury ended up finding the clients liable for recording claims on which there is literally zero evidence presented at the trial."
"Those are among the legal issues we’ll be seeking a post-trial verdict on and appealing if the court does not change its ruling," she added.
U.S. District Judge William Orrick III preempted many of the Daleiden team's most effective legal defenses. He ruled that the jury may only consider information Daleiden had before launching his video project, excluding anything learned from the sting videos. The judge also excluded defense experts who would have testified to Daleiden's motives. He insisted that the case was not about whether abortion is good or bad, or about whether Planned Parenthood profited from fetal tissue, but about whether Planned Parenthood was damaged by alleged fraud, trespass, and breached agreements.
Importantly, Orrick instructed the jury not to consider the First Amendment as a defense, writing that "defendants' argument that hey were citizen journalists was admissible as context for the defendants' case, not as a legal defense."
Daleiden and others attacked Orrick as a biased pro-abortion judge affiliated with Planned Parenthood.
"While top Planned Parenthood witnesses spent six weeks testifying under oath that the undercover videos are true and Planned Parenthood sold fetal organs on a quid pro quo basis, a biased judge with close Planned Parenthood ties spent six weeks influencing the jury with pre-determined rulings and suppressing the video evidence, all in order to rubber-stamp Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit attack on the First Amendment," Daleiden wrote in a statement.
"This profoundly unjust verdict concludes a trial stacked from day one by a pro-abortion activist judge," Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said in a statement. "Still, the testimony heard — including stunning admissions that Planned Parenthood's baby parts buyer sold the beating hearts and fully intact heads of innocent children killed in potentially illegal abortions — has further exposed the truth about abortion industry brutality and greed."
This verdict could chill the speech of undercover journalists everywhere. "This verdict, if allowed to stand, seriously threatens the ability of undercover journalists – such as David Daleiden, Sandra Merritt, Adrian Lopez, and the ABC journalists in the 20/20 undercover video played in court showing Planned Parenthood’s involvement in fetal tissue trafficking 19 years ago – to document and expose illegal practices, such as Planned Parenthood’s illegal fetal tissue sales and abortion procedures," Dhillon warned in a statement after the ruling.
Still, as Dannenfelser noted, there is a silver lining to this situation. Many deep secrets about Planned Parenthood were revealed in the trial. Among other things, testimony revealed that the buyers of aborted baby body parts were "scalping the babies."
The trial also revealed, yet again, that the videos were genuine. Contrary to Planned Parenthood's repeated protestations, they were not deceptively edited. Indeed, Fusion GPS — the very firm behind the notorious Trump dossier — compiled a report for Planned Parenthood seemingly intended to convince people that the sting videos were deceptively edited but acknowledging that there was no "widespread evidence of substantive video manipulation."
Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.