The federal civil jury trial brought by Planned Parenthood against undercover journalist David Daleiden and others associated with the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) began Wednesday in a San Francisco federal court.
Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit alleges that Daleiden and CMP committed 15 different crimes including wiretapping, conspiracy, trespassing, and breach of confidentiality. Daleiden’s defense team is arguing the project in question was not a criminal conspiracy, but an undercover journalism project. What remains to be seen over the next 6 to 8 weeks of trial, and what the defense’s argument relies on, is whether Planned Parenthood can keep the “why” behind Daleiden’s alleged crimes out of the courtroom.
Peter Breen, lead defense attorney, vice president, and senior counsel at the Thomas More Society said Planned Parenthood’s strategy from day one has been to deny the use of any evidence related to fetal tissue trafficking, born-alive infants, or its profiting from the sale of human fetal tissue.
“You can’t keep out from the lawsuit the reason why the entire project was undertaken,” Breen told The Federalist. “You can’t have a trial without telling people what they were doing in there or why they were there. That has a significant bearing on how you view the project.”
Planned Parenthood’s lead trial lawyer, from one of the world’s largest law firms Arnold & Porter, argued in opening statements on Wednesday that CMP’s undercover investigative work was an attempt to “destroy” the abortion industry giant by whatever means necessary. So far, Planned Parenthood has successfully kept significant evidence barred from the trial, and the judge has agreed that evidence related to the substance of the undercover videos is “prejudicial,” according to Breen.
The defense has also been barred from bringing up any other outside investigations or cases brought against Planned Parenthood, such as the Senate investigation or the state of Texas’ enforcement actions. Planned Parenthood has even already dismissed some of its original claims in hopes of avoiding any presentation of evidence that proves it was selling fetal tissue for profit or evidence that babies were born alive during abortions in its clinics.
In opening statements, Judge William Orrick told the jury the case “is not about the truth of whether plaintiffs profited from the sale of fetal tissue or otherwise violated the law in securing tissue for those programs,” and, “Those issues are a matter of dispute between the parties in the world outside this courtroom.”
Planned Parenthood initially sought over $16 million in damages, but damages have since been reduced to somewhere between $600,000 and $700,000 plus legal and attorney fees, which could still be in the millions of dollars.
Trial dates are currently scheduled through Nov. 15. The court has allotted each side 45 hours to present their case.
Paul Jonna, the defense attorney representing CMP’s undercover investigator Adrian Lopez, told the jury, “This case is about undercover reporting, the First Amendment, the rights of ordinary citizens to expose unethical and potentially illegal conduct on the part of large and powerful corporations.”