During the second day of Planned Parenthood’s civil trial against The Center for Medical Progress (CMP) in San Francisco on Friday, the CEO of Planned Parenthood California Central Coast retook the stand and defendant Sandra Merritt testified for the first time.
Terrisa Bukovinac, Founder and Executive Director of Pro-Life San Francisco told Live Action News that Amy Bomse, an attorney for Planned Parenthood, asked Judge William Orrick III to limit specific pieces of CMP’s undercover recorded conversations that were shown to the jury. “She argued that if the defense wants to point out moments where bystanders might have been within earshot of the recorded conversations, she prefers the court to maneuver around ‘salacious, concerning quotes,'” explained Bukovinac.
However, the entire premise of the lawsuit is that CMP, including defendants David Daleiden, Sandra Merritt, Albin Rhomberg, and Troy Newman, illegally recorded conversations undercover journalists had with abortion organization employees. Cutting out parts of those conversations would only benefit Planned Parenthood as the defense attempts to prove that CMP had reason to believe Planned Parenthood was engaging in a felony and therefore had every legal right to record them without their knowledge.
Planned Parenthood is seeking $16 million with the claims that CMP took part in fraud, broke confidentiality agreements, unlawfully recorded conversations, and violated the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. Some of these claims could prove meaningless if bystanders were able to overhear the conversations that were being recorded. Planned Parenthood, after all, isn’t suing for defamation, as pointed out by Bukovinac and other pro-lifers. Planned Parenthood, however, seems to want to further avoid bad press and keep “salacious, concerning quotes” away from America’s ears.
“We have a lot of defenses because there a lot of ridiculous things they’re accusing us of and we did nothing wrong. But one of the most incredible things and one of the most telling things is, again, Planned Parenthood is suing us for almost everything […] The one thing they’re not suing us for is defamation or liable or slander. That is the one thing they’re not suing us for,” Daleiden said in an interview with Ann McElhinney, producer of the pro-life film Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer. “They’re not saying that we lied about them, or that anything in the videos is untrue or inaccurate, and anything that I put in a press release about them is inaccurate. That’s the one place they don’t want to go to in this entire case because they know there’s no way they can win that whatsoever.”
Judge Orrick said he would rule by Tuesday on whether or not those damaging quotes could be removed from the videos shown to the jurors.
Once back on the stand, Tosh — whose Planned Parenthood facility had a contract with StemExpress to harvest fetal body parts — was cross-examined by defense attorney Chuck Limandri who “challenged her characterization of the level of security at abortion industry conferences,” said Bukovinac. During Thursday’s testimony, Tosh had described security at the 2014 National Abortion Federation conference as tight, saying that no one could enter the conference without their participant badge visible. But on Friday said she could not testify on the security protocols after all because she’s “not in the security division.” In addition, the defense was able to show video of Merritt entering that conference area without her participant badge visible, showing that security might not have been as strict as Tosh previously implied.
In her deposition, Tosh had said that there was nothing in the videos that would incite violence — which would mean Planned Parenthood should not be suing for $16 million to help cover the cost of new security due to so-called threats they received after the CMP videos were released. But on the stand on Friday, Tosh contradicted her previous statement by saying that she believes there are things in the videos that incite violence.
“When asked whether it was [Deborah] Nucatola’s [then-Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s Senior Director] words that were the cause of public criticism, rather than Daleiden’s actions, Tosh completely avoided the question and the judge allowed it,” Bukovinac told Live Action News.
When Merritt took the stand, she was able to confirm that a bystander in a restaurant booth during the undercover investigator’s lunch with Nucatola would have been able to hear the conversation, therefore it would not have been private and confidential. This is a direct challenge to the charge of illegally recording conversations.
“Then in a bizarre twist,” said Bukovinac, “attorneys for the plaintiffs presented an email that Daleiden had sent Merritt in 2014 containing several links to mainstream media articles and videos on Nucatola’s work. The attorneys for the plaintiffs asked Sandra if the first link in the email showed evidence of a crime on the part of Planned Parenthood and she answered that she would have to read the article.”
The defense objected to Merritt having to read through the long article and Judge Orrick agreed. The attorney for the plaintiff then argued that her goal in having Merritt read the article was to show that there wasn’t anything in it that would give evidence of a crime.
“The fact that they were cherry-picking a few links out of all the info Merritt had at her disposal was hopefully transparent to the jury, and not seen as a compelling move on the part of the plaintiffs,” said Bukovinac.
The trial is expected to last at least six weeks, possibly eight, as 60 witnesses take the stand.
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