Judge dismisses charges against Daleiden, Merritt
Case ends after Harris County district attorney admits to irregularities in indictment process
HOUSTON—A Harris County District Court judge today dismissed the third and final indictment against pro-life activists David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt after the Harris County District Attorney’s Office submitted a motion to dismiss, admitting the charges brought against them were invalid due to irregularities.
Calling it a victory for pro-life advocates and citizen journalists, Daleiden exited the Harris County Courthouse to cheers from supporters gathered on the sidewalk of the busy downtown Houston street. Without hearing any of the scheduled testimony, Judge Brock Thomas dismissed the final indictment stemming from Daleiden’s undercover work exposing Planned Parenthood’s involvement in the fetal tissue trade.
“Today was a huge victory for First Amendment Rights and citizen journalists,” Daleiden told the crowd.
His supporters spent the hot muggy morning praying and holding signs with pro-life messages as Daleiden awaited the judge’s ruling inside. After the hearing, they stood in line to shake the young activist’s hand, have their pictures taken with him, and thank him for bringing into the light one of the abortion industry’s dark secrets.
For three years, Daleiden and Merritt worked undercover and gained access to Planned Parenthood center administrators across the nation. Using tactics common to undercover reporters, the pair took on false identities and presented themselves as representatives for a fictitious medical research company. Their work produced hours of secretly recorded videos showing Planned Parenthood officials appearing to barter for the sale of aborted body parts and discuss ways to alter the abortion procedure to keep the most valuable body parts intact. The abortion giant can legally recoup the cost of collecting and shipping fetal remains but profiting off the sale is a federal crime.
The Center for Medical Progress, founded by Daleiden, last year released a series of edited videos that led to the investigation of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast (PPGC) of Houston, one of the abortion facilities implicated in the videos.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson to investigate the allegations of profiteering by Planned Parenthood. But following the grand jury investigation, pro-life advocates were stunned when jurors indicted Daleiden and Merritt—and not Planned Parenthood.
But one by one, a judge dismissed the charges of trying to purchase fetal remains and tampering with a government document (falsifying their drivers’ licenses). Attorneys for Daleiden and Merritt argued the indictments demonstrated a bias against their clients and pointed to the grand jury investigation and its flawed procedures as evidence.
They filed a motion to quash the indictment, arguing that after a judge granted the grand jury an extension of its tenure to continue investigating the case against Planned Parenthood, Daleiden became the target of investigation, without his knowledge. That, his attorneys said, invalidated the grand jury’s work and its indictments.
“Our position was Planned Parenthood was the target of the investigation by the original grand jury,” said Jared Woodfill, one of Daleiden’s Houston attorneys. “And then you hold that grand jury over and during the hold over period you add a new target without telling that person they are a target. So you can’t add a new person or a new matter in the hold over period.”
Terry Yates, another of Daleiden’s Houston attorneys, said the district attorney could pursue another indictment against his client but doubted that would happen. Following the indictments, Anderson faced harsh criticism from pro-life advocates who viewed the indictments with suspicion.
Shawn Carney, president of 40 Days for Life, was among those outside the courthouse cheering the judge’s decision.
“Today shows that you can stand up to a Goliath that is the abortion industry and get justice,” Carney said.
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