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Tipsheet

Court Filing: California Is Withholding Evidence That Would Exonerate Pro-Life Undercover Journalist

AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File

California is attempting to restrict the use of information that could aid the defense of undercover journalist and pro-life activist David Daleiden in his case against Planned Parenthood, Daleiden's legal team argued in court filings.

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In 2013 and 2014, Daleiden acted as a fetal tissue procurer and secretly recorded Planned Parenthood employees allegedly admitting to the organization's sale of fetal body parts.

The pro-life activist is accused of breaking the law for using manufactured identities and secretly recording conversations with employees of the abortion provider.

Daleiden's attorneys said in a Friday court filing that California was excluding former Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas' declaration that his criminal investigation into Planned Parenthood and two commercial businesses found evidence of crimes committed against abortion patients, including infanticide, partial-birth abortion, battery and the sale of fetal body parts.

Prompted by Daleiden's findings, Rackauckas brought legal action against DaVinci Bioscience and sister company DV Biologics. The companies had to pay $7.8 million and close their businesses.

According to Daleiden's attorneys, his recordings are legal under California law since Rackauckas has said that his office found evidence of crimes that would not have been uncovered without Daleiden's footage.

"The State of California is criminalizing investigative journalism, and attempting to suppress evidence that would exculpate Mr. Daleiden from these groundless charges," Daleiden's attorneys Steve Cooley and Sianna Collado said Friday in a statement.

However, according to the filing, the California attorney general rejects the notion that Daleiden's reporting provided evidence of crimes and instead claimed the pro-life activist is an "agent provocateur who sought only to damage Planned Parenthood."

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Daleiden's attorneys said in the filing that Rackauckas' testimony would be "extremely relevant" to their client's "credibility and character concerning his search for violent crimes." 

"In addition, there is probably no greater expert on what constitutes evidence of all crimes than the five-term district attorney of Orange County, Tony Rackauckas," the filing reads.

The attorneys also called into question the prosecution's suggestion that evidence should be excluded over it being irrelevant testimony intended to elicit an emotional response.

"While a trial court has great latitude in limiting testimony at trial, it does not extend to limiting witnesses and attorney’s descriptions of relevant evidence by issuing a gag order designed to prevent witnesses and attorneys from truthfully presenting evidence," the filing says. 

Planned Parenthood officials described in detail baby body parts and organs during their testimonies, according to the filing, which added that the AG "essentially seeks a gag order at trial concerning testimony and public statements that would prevent both defendants and their counsel from characterizing the evidence as they see fit."

The filing also asserts that the prosecution is looking to suppress certain information while also asking for the inclusion of evidence of "anti-abortion violence at clinics and meetings."

"This request is actually an attempt to put Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt on trial for threats and violence perpetrated by other people," the filing reads. "The defendants never threatened anyone and face no such charges in the information. There is no nexus between the defendants and any threats or violence and therefore the AG has no basis for putting on evidence of uncharged crimes."

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The filing's mention of Ms. Merritt is in reference to Daleiden's partner Sandra Merritt, who has similarly recorded undercover videos of Planned Parenthood employees.

Daleiden's attorneys said that there is "no dispute that novelty identifications and a legally organized company, BioMax," referring to Daleiden's fake fetal tissue procurer company, "were employed to enter the conference" and that the only dispute is whether Daleiden "purposely recorded confidential communications or whether these conversations in public spaces where anyone could overhear them were reasonably intended by the Does, not by [National Abortion Foundation], to be confined to themselves and the Defendants."

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