LIBERTY ALERTS, LIBERTY COUNSEL
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is asking the Superior Court of San Francisco to seal and hide from the public, all of the undercover videos that reveal Planned Parenthood’s unethical and potentially illegal conduct involving the sale of baby body parts, even though these are the same videos now being used by the state to criminally prosecute Sandra “Susan” Merritt and David Daleiden.
Attorney General Becerra has also asked “that any monitor displaying the videos be screened from or directed away from the public gallery,” to prohibit any public viewing. In addition, he seeks the continued sealing of all the complaining witnesses’ names.
At the two-week evidentiary preliminary hearing, scheduled for February 19 to March 1, 2019, the attorney general is required to demonstrate that he has probable cause to criminally charge Merritt and Daleiden with 15 felonies for their undercover journalistic investigation, which exposed Planned Parenthood’s unconscionable practices. Statutory and constitutional law clearly entitles Merritt and Daleiden to be tried in a public proceeding, including a preliminary hearing that is open to the public.
Liberty Counsel is defending Sandra Merritt against the attorney general’s prosecution. In a brief filed on January 18, 2019, Liberty Counsel demonstrated that the attorney general’s preference to try this case in secret violates Merritt’s fundamental due process rights to have an open and public preliminary hearing. Becerra brazenly seeks to deprive the public from knowing the truth about Planned Parenthood’s baby body parts practices, without any proof that closure or sealing is necessary. The issue is expected to be heard and decided by Judge Christopher Hite of the Superior Court of San Francisco at a hearing on Monday, January 28, 2019 at 1:30 pm.
The Attorney General has offered no proof of the necessity to take the radical and unprecedent step of sealing a preliminary hearing from the public. Instead, the attorney general has offered only speculation, such as his bald assertion that the videos are “essentially contraband,” and “deserving to be treated as such.” Just last week, however, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal held that Merritt’s and Daleiden’s undercover videos were far from “contraband.”
In this recent decision, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Family Planning and Preventative Health Servs., Inc. v. Smith, a federal Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s injunction prohibiting the state of Texas from terminating Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood. The state of Texas had based its decision to deny Planned Parenthood $3.4 million in annual taxpayer funding based directly upon the undercover videos produced by Daleiden and Merritt. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal chided the lower court for “inaccurately” stating that the videos “had not been authenticated,” and for suggesting the videos “may have been edited.” Instead, the Fifth Circuit pointed to expert evidence demonstrating that “the video was authentic and not deceptively edited.”
“Attorney General Becerra wants to keep the videos from the public for one reason, and one reason only,” said Horatio Mihet, Vice President of Legal Affairs and Chief Litigation Counsel for Liberty Counsel. “Becerra knows that no reasonable person can view the damning evidence regarding the baby body parts trade and not want the state to prosecute Planned Parenthood instead of Sandra Merritt,” Mihet added.
“The Attorney General’s attempt to try Sandra Merritt in secret is an affront to everything we hold dear in our open system of justice,” said Mathew D. Staver, Liberty Counsel’s Founder and Chairman. “While secret proceedings and Star Chambers may be acceptable in despotic regimes, they have no place in a nation that values the rule of law and the public’s right to know how justice is dispensed,” Staver added.
Used with the permission of Liberty Counsel.
Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.