A California jury has found pro-life activist David Daleiden and his group the Center for Medical Progress liable for their undercover videos exposing actions of Planned Parenthood, ordering the pro-life activists to pay the abortion provider $870,000 in punitive damages.
In 2015, the CMP published online a series of undercover videos of Planned Parenthood personnel discussing business with biotech companies about obtaining aborted fetal organs.
In a decision made Friday, the jury ruled against Daleiden and his co-defendants, in what the CMP labeled a “black eye” to the First Amendment.
In a short statement posted to Twitter on Friday, CMP said that the decision was partly due to the actions of U.S. District Court Judge William H. Orrick.
“Lady Justice was not blind in this trial, Judge [William H. Orrick]'s rulings against CMP et al created bias against us with jury,” stated CMP, labeling the decision a “dangerous precedent.”
The Thomas More Society, which helped to represent Daleiden, vowed to appeal the decision.
“This lawsuit is payback for David Daleiden exposing Planned Parenthood’s dirty business of buying and selling fetal parts and organs,” stated lead Society Defense Attorney Peter Breen in an email.
“We intend 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.”
During the preliminary hearing that began in September, Planned Parenthood staffers admitted to providing fetal tissue from abortions to brokers. The head of StemExpress, a biotech firm that procures fetal body parts for research, also allegedly admitted in court to procuring intact fetal heads and beating hearts.
For their part, Planned Parenthood celebrated the jury’s ruling in a series of posts to Twitter on Friday, stating that they were “thrilled with today’s verdict.”
“The jury recognized that the people behind this fraudulent attack broke the law in order to advance their goals of banning safe, legal abortion in this country, and stopping PP health centers from serving the patients who depend on us,” declared Planned Parenthood.
“Today’s ruling makes clear what many already knew: the only people who engaged in wrongdoing are the ones behind this dangerous fraud, and we're glad that they’re being held accountable.”
Daleiden and Merritt were charged with 15 counts of felony invasion of privacy, including creating a fake biotech firm to pose as fetal tissue buyers and using fake names to enter National Abortion Federation meetings that were held in 2014 and 2015 to videotape the events.
Prosecutors argued that the footage was illegally obtained while defendants claimed that NAF’s Exhibitor Rules and Regulations did not prohibit video recordings.
“None of the content was confidential,” said Breen in a statement in September, adding that he believed Daleiden was covered by state laws that protect undercover investigative journalists.