A federal jury in San Fransisco found undercover journalist David Daleiden and others associated with the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) liable for the crimes alleged against them by Planned Parenthood and seven of its affiliate organizations.
After hearing closing arguments on Tuesday and Wednesday, a panel of 10 jurors deliberated over six weeks worth of testimony for two days before deciding Daleiden and his colleagues owe Planned Parenthood $870,000 in punitive damages and over half a million in compensatory damages for their undercover investigation into Planned Parenthood’s trafficking of aborted baby body parts. The verdict found the defendants guilty under the federal Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) law, among other crimes such as trespassing.
In a statement released by the Center for Medical Progress, Daleiden said the decision is a threat to citizen journalism and First Amendment rights.
“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 by suppressing video evidence, all in order to rubber-stamp Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit attack on the First Amendment,” he said. “This is a dangerous precedent for citizen journalism and First Amendment civil rights across the country, sending a message that speaking truth and facts criticizing the powerful is no longer protected by our institutions.”
Earlier in the week, Judge William Orrick ordered the jury to find Daleiden guilty of trespassing at Planned Parenthood conferences and clinics, where Daleiden and others from CMP met with Planned Parenthood executives and staff.
“I have already determined that these defendants trespassed at each of these locations,” the judge said, as he explained to the jury they must accept his rulings and only decide what damages Planned Parenthood should be awarded, if any.
Throughout the trial, Orrick proved to be a biased judge, repeatedly cutting off defense questioning he considered straying too close to eliciting information related to Planned Parenthood’s history of selling tissue from aborted fetuses.
“I just want to be very clear that I want these witnesses to be able to testify as to what their reasonable state of mind was with respect to the specific defense … but we’re not going into the truth of abortion procedures. I’ve excluded that,” Orrick said in October, early on in the trial.
Additionally, Orrick founded a family resource center in San Fransisco that houses a Planned Parenthood clinic on its property. In 2017, at the onset of the lawsuit, Daleiden and his co-defendant Sandra Merritt asked for Orrick to recuse himself from their case because of his “ongoing and longstanding professional relationship with Planned Parenthood.”
Justice was not done today in San Francisco. Top @PPFA witnesses swore the videos are true #PPSellsBabyParts but PP-founder Judge Orrick spent 6 weeks influencing jury with arbitrary rulings and suppressed key evidence. Dangerous attack on #1A as CA bans speaking truth to power!
— David Daleiden (@daviddaleiden) November 15, 2019
After the verdict was issued on Friday, Peter Breen, lead defense attorney, vice president, and senior counsel at the Thomas More Society, said they plan to seek vindication for David on appeal.
“His investigation into criminal activity by America’s largest abortion provider utilized standard investigative journalism techniques, those applied regularly by news outlets across the country,” Breen said.
During his closing argument on Tuesday, Breen reminded the jury that as a country, “We, the people, run things; not some king, not some group of nobles. But in order to run things we, the people, need information.”
Breen said this case is about how private citizen investigators cut through a “curtain of silence and concealment,” and it is often because of the work of undercover journalists that laws are changed and wrongdoers are sent to jail.
“You need that information. You may not like seeing that information. It may be difficult or whatever. But we don’t want to stop the flow of information,” he said.
Daleiden testified in October that it was an undercover ABC News “20/20” report on fetal tissue trafficking that inspired him to record similar undercover videos. A video of the report was then played for the jury, featuring footage recorded by an undercover ABC producer posed as a potential investor, interviewing an abortion doctor.
Lila Rose, anti-abortion activist and founder of Live Action, said Daleiden and the CMP should appeal the guilty verdict.
“Planned Parenthood Judge Orrick – who has well-documented ties to the organization – was clearly incapable of seeing the true criminals here, who are those engaged in the harvesting and sale of the body parts of pre-born children. It is a sad day when the justice system is manipulated by the rich and powerful to protect the guilty and punish the innocent,” she said.