California Supreme Court halts criminal hearing for Planned Parenthood investigators

Planned Parenthood, sidewalk counselor, abortion, heartbeat, wrongful death

UPDATE, 4/22/19: An email received today from Thomas More Society’s public relations firm, stated that as of Friday evening, April 19th, the California Supreme Court issued a stay for the case The People of the State of California v. David Robert Daleiden and Sandra Susan Merritt — “suspended until further notice from the California Supreme Court.” According to the emailed press release, “The stay was based on the political bias and selective prosecution. Further details will be forthcoming.”

Further statement was given to Live Action News:

Very late on Good Friday afternoon, the California Supreme Court handed down an Order, signed by Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, staying (suspending) “all further proceedings” in the criminal prosecution that was filed by the California Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, “(t)o permit consideration of the petition for review filed herein … pending further order of this court.”  Thus the preliminary hearing that was scheduled to begin this morning, on April 22, 2019, has been cancelled, at least for now.  At that preliminary hearing the Attorney General was to present evidence, including testimony from many of the complaining witnesses, to try to convince San Francisco Superior Court Judge Christopher Hite that defendants David Daleiden and Sandra Susan Merritt should have to stand trial, before a jury, on fifteen felony counts for violation of California’s anti-eavesdropping (14 counts) and conspiracy (1 count).  The delay in the trial court proceedings will last until all seven California Supreme Court Justices have reviewed the defense petition for review and decided whether to hear and decide the appeal on its merits.  The appeal charges that the trial court erred in refusing to grant the defendants the opportunity to have an evidentiary hearing at which to prove that, under California law, the charges against them were politically biased and ought to be dismissed, or at least that the Attorney General should be recused from his role as prosecutor because of his political bias in favor of Planned Parenthood, which — among other facts cited by the defendants — sponsored and hosted Mr. Becerra’s election night victory party.

 Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of Thomas More Society and one of the attorneys of record for David Daleiden in the criminal case, said: 

“We are very grateful for this welcome development and hopeful that the California Supreme Court will decide to hear and decide the very critical issue raised in this appeal, namely, whether a prosecutor may exercise his or her powers to enforce the criminal laws selectively with a view toward helping his or her political sponsors and allies and against political opponents, or rather whether he or she should act even-handedly and apply the law fairly and with equal consideration for all, without bias or favoritism.  Here, the earmarks of bias and discrimination are all too glaringly apparent, as Mr. Becerra — like his predecessor, Kamala Harris, now the Junior Senator from California — took office while proclaiming, ‘I stand with Planned Parenthood.’  At least, the Attorney General should step aside so that an unbiased prosecutor may decide whether this prosecution — an attack on undercover journalism, which is a common and critical tactic used by news-gatherers as is regularly, even routinely employed and shown in California print and broadcast journalism, that represents an unprecedented use of the state’s anti-eavesdropping law — should go forward.  Or else, based on evidence of bias already adduced, the case should be dismissed.”

In addition Sandra Merritt’s attorneys at Liberty Counsel released a statement, which reads in part:

“We are pleased that the California Supreme Court is considering a closer look at the well documented bias and illegal collusion between Attorney General Becerra and his Planned Parenthood financiers,” said Horatio Mihet, Vice President of Legal Affairs and Chief Litigation Counsel at Liberty Counsel. “Sandra Merritt did not violate any law, and we are confident that the evidence will demonstrate that California’s first-ever prosecution of an undercover journalist for illegal recording is selective and discriminatory,” said Mihet.

4/21/19: A two-week long preliminary hearing will begin tomorrow at 9 a.m. PST in the case of The People of the State of California v. David Robert Daleiden and Sandra Susan Merritt at the San Francisco County Superior Court. According to a press release from the Thomas More Society, the group’s attorneys will be defending Mr. Daleiden against “15 criminal felony charges for non-consensual eavesdropping and conspiracy.”

In the hearing, write Daleiden’s attorneys, the court will determine whether California’s attorney general “can present enough evidence to require Daleiden and Merritt to defend themselves against 15 felony counts at a full-dress jury trial later this year.”

According to a previous report from the Thomas More Society, the defense plans to present expert witnesses who will testify that Daleiden was “reasonably seeking to investigate violent felonies in his investigative work, which is a complete defense under California law to illegal taping charges.” California has a law against recording private conversations — however, all of the conversations with abortion industry insiders in California were all recorded in public venues. Thomas More Society Senior Counsel Peter Breen noted, “This latest court order gives us the ability to prove the link between David’s actions and uncovering violent felonies by the abortion industry, and to show that these videos were all taken in public locations where the conversations could be easily overheard.”

READ: Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals: Planned Parenthood videos aren’t deceptive, Texas can defund

Particularly notable about the upcoming hearing, according to the press release, is the fact that it will be the “first time that the anonymous abortion industry witnesses who complained that they were illegally videotaped will present sworn testimony in court,” writes the Thomas More Society. “It will also be the first time that excerpts of the videos — capturing alleged involvement in illegal fetal tissue sales as well as the commission of violent felony crimes against human beings — will be shown in open court.”

There are reportedly 14 Planned Parenthood employees and others — whose names have also been sealed — who claim their right to privacy was violated by Daleiden and Merritt’s undercover investigations. It is believed that half of these witnesses will testify in the hearings.

Per a February ruling by Superior Court Judge Christopher Hite, the videos will then be sealed again from public viewing immediately following the hearings. The public will only be able to see the undercover video footage if physically sitting in the courtroom. Daleiden’s attorneys have stated that they believe the sealing of both the witnesses’ names and the videos are “based on nothing more than a set of vague assertions by these unnamed complainants, many of whom are very public abortion advocates.” Attorney Peter Breen added, “These abortion advocates are already very public,” and their names can be found in statements these witnesses have given “to the New York Times and the Washington Post, as well as actively attacking David Daleiden on social media,” and therefore, he believes, “privacy does not really seem like a relevant issue….”

In June of 2017, a judge threw out 14 charges filed against Daleiden and Merritt because they were considered too vague. In July, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra refiled 15 more specific charges against the pro-life investigators.

Prior to Becerra’s tenure as AG, Kamala Harris — now a U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential candidate — chose as California’s attorney general not to investigate Planned Parenthood, but instead to go after Daleiden and Merritt. Planned Parenthood has been a supporter of and contributor to both Harris’s and Becerra’s political campaigns.

Editor’s Note 4/22/19: Title updated along with further information on CA Supreme Court stay.

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