Merritt worked with co-defendant David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) to expose the alleged fetal tissue trafficking operation of Planned Parenthood and its partners in the biomedical industry. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled to begin April 22.
Liberty Counsel, which is defending Merritt against 15 felony charges brought against her by Becerra, said in a press statement that the attorney general, “in an unprecedented move, and at the request of abortion giants Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation,” attempted to try Merritt “in secret on these bogus charges, and to completely prevent the public from ever seeing the undercover videos which are alleged to have been illegally recorded.”
“The Attorney General has failed to rebut the strong presumption in favor of open public trials in this instance,” Judge Christopher Hite wrote in his decision, adding that the claim that Merritt’s accusers must remain anonymous in the courtroom lacked evidence:
It is apparent from the record that most if not all of the Does are known to the public. The Does’ names and occupations have been revealed in the federal civil case, and through other public outlets. Most of them have filed public declarations in the civil injunction. However, neither the Attorney General nor the Intervening Parties have provided evidence to the Court that the Does have been threatened if they appear in court to testify at the preliminary hearing.
However, Hite also said he will seal the video evidence following Merritt’s hearing and will permit her accusers to continue to press charges against her using the “Doe” pseudonyms. Liberty Counsel said it will appeal these decisions.
In January, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals discredited the smear by Planned Parenthood and its allies in the abortion industry that the videos produced by CMP were “heavily edited” or “doctored.”
Daleiden said in a statement about that decision:
The video camera doesn’t lie: CMP’s undercover video series caught Planned Parenthood’s top leaders openly admitting to selling baby body parts for profit in violation of federal law. Tonight, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals vindicated our citizen journalism work by debunking Planned Parenthood’s smear that the videos were ‘heavily edited’ or ‘doctored.’ The Court ruled that Texas may strip Planned Parenthood’s taxpayer subsidies, finding that Planned Parenthood uses criminal partial-birth abortions to sell baby parts. Now, it is time for the U.S. Department of Justice to do its job and hold Planned Parenthood accountable to the law.
Merritt and Daleiden are the first undercover journalists to be prosecuted criminally in California.
“Attorney General Becerra’s attempt to shield from the public the very same videos upon which he bases his political prosecution of Sandra Merritt is truly astonishing,” said Horatio Mihet, Liberty Counsel’s vice president of legal affairs and chief litigation counsel, adding: