Citizen journalists to be tried on criminal charges

Undercover journalist Sandra Merritt and Life Legal VP of Operations Mary Riley
San Francisco Superior Court

Life Legal was present in court today as a San Francisco judge ruled that citizen journalists David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt will head to trial for allegedly “eavesdropping” on conversations with Planned Parenthood executives. They recorded the footage in crowded venues to show that abortionists were engaged in illegal trafficking of baby body parts.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed 14 counts of felony eavesdropping and 1 count of conspiracy against Daleiden and Merritt in 2017. In September of this year, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Christopher Hite held a two-week preliminary hearing to determine whether the AG had sufficient evidence for the case to proceed to trial. The key issue in the eavesdropping charges is whether the video recordings captured private conversations that the speakers did not expect to be overheard.

Today Judge Hite ruled that most of the discussions in public restaurants—such as the one featuring the abortionist who boasted about “crushing above” and “crushing below” to get intact body parts while sipping her wine—were not private conversations under California eavesdropping laws. He subsequently tossed out 6 of the 14 eavesdropping charges. Daleiden and Merritt will go to trial on the 8 remaining eavesdropping charges, many of which stem from conversations recorded at a National Abortion Federation (NAF) annual meeting, and the conspiracy charge.

The Attorney General sought to seal from public view all exhibits, including video evidence showing abortionists willing to sell baby parts for profit in violation of federal law. Judge Hite declined to seal the exhibits, citing Daleiden’s and Merritt’s constitutional right to a public trial.

The criminal trial will begin on January 30, 2020.