A San Francisco jury found that a citizen journalist and pro-life activist caused substantial harm to Planned Parenthood by secretly taping conversations with abortion doctors and staff in a bid to prove they were harvesting and selling fetal body parts.
The jury awarded Planned Parenthood punitive damages of $870,000.
David Daleiden, head of the Center for Medical Progress, and his co-defendant, Sandra Merritt, posed as human tissue procurers for a fake company called BioMax and secretly recorded their conversations with staff at Planned Parenthood, according to Courthouse News.
The jury found Daleiden had trespassed on private properties and committed other crimes in recording the 2015 videos.
Daleiden’s lawyers argued that he and Merritt were investigating “violent felonies,” where they believed infants were being born alive at Planned Parenthood clinics and that the organization was profiting off the sale of fetal tissue for medical research. They argued Daleiden’s work as a citizen journalist should be protected.
During the six-week trial, U.S. District Judge William Orrick III ruled the jury could not consider any information Daleiden had discovered as a result of his video project. At least three congressional committees and law enforcement officials in 13 states launched investigations into Planned Parenthood after Daleiden’s group released the footage in 2015. None of the probes confirmed any wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood.
In 2018, Planned Parenthood announced that its clinics would not accept any sort of payment for its fetal tissue program.
The released videos show Planned Parenthood executives discussing fees for fetal tissue and organs. Daleiden alleged Planned Parenthood profited from these sales, which is illegal under federal law.
"Justice was not done today in San Francisco,” Daleiden said in a statement after the verdict. “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 trying to influence the jury with pre-determined rulings and suppressed the video evidence, all in order to rubber-stamp Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit attack on the First Amendment.”
Planned Parenthood lawyers told the court Daleiden’s mission was “not to find crimes, and it was not about journalism. It was about using any means, including illegal means, to destroy Planned Parenthood.”