Kermit Gosnell abortion trial goes to jury

8:27 AM, Apr 30, 2013   |    comments
Dr. Kermit Gosnell. (AP Graphics)
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Sean O'Sullivan, The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal

PHILADELPHIA - The month-and-a-half-long murder trial of Kermit Gosnell came to an emotional close Monday with both the prosecutor and defense attorney calling on the jury to show courage with their verdict.

Defense lawyer John "Jack" McMahon asked the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas jury to stand up to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, claiming that prosecutors had exaggerated, intimidated and generally abused their power in bringing what he called a racist and elitist prosecution against Gosnell, a black doctor serving a poor community.

"We know why he was targeted," McMahon told the jury whose members are almost evenly divided between blacks and whites. "If you don't see it, you are living in some sort of la-la land.

"I want you to have the courage to say 'no' to the government," he said.

Assistant District Attorney Ed Cameron asked the jury to speak for the four children delivered alive at Gosnell's abortion clinic then killed. He also noted an abortion patient who died after she was given a fatal overdose of medication at the clinic in 2009.

Cameron quoted one of Gosnell's staffers as saying he saw himself like "a fireman in hell" while he was working in the clinic in Philadelphia.

"He's the captain of that hell," Cameron said as he pointed at Gosnell who sat at the defense table. "It is time for us to extinguish that hell."

"Show the courage to tell him he was wrong. Be their voice," he said.

The jury was dismissed by Judge Jeffrey Minehart about 5:30 p.m., and will return to the courthouse today to begin deliberations after hearing Minehart's instructions on the law.

In his two-hour close, McMahon conceded that some clinic staffers were not well trained, procedures were sloppy and that Gosnell had performed abortions past the state's legal limit of 24 weeks. He said, on the most serious charges, prosecutors failed to provide objective, scientific proof that any of the four fetuses that were allegedly murdered were in fact born alive.

"It is a fabrication, a political fabrication," McMahon said.

"I'm telling you, never in my career have I seen the presumption of innocence trampled on and stomped on as in this case," he said, adding that it was "the most incredible rush to judgment that I have ever seen in the history of jurisprudence."

McMahon acknowledged that abortion was a bloody, ugly business like all surgical procedures. He told the jury that a "not guilty" verdict was not "innocent" but more properly "not proven."

McMahon dismissed the eyewitness testimony from former clinic staff members who claimed they saw movement or heard aborted babies cry out as contradicted by others or the product of fear of prosecutors or malice toward Gosnell.

McMahon told the jurors that they can be sure that every single baby delivered at Gosnell's clinic was dead because the paperwork and testimony showed Gosnell injected every patient with a drug called Digoxin, which is used to abort a fetus.

McMahon noted when police raided Gosnell's clinic, they recovered 47 bodies and, according to medical tests, none of them had ever taken a breath.

But Cameron said not all the patients got Digoxin. One of the aborted babies - that had a gash in the back of its neck - had no traces of Digoxin in its system.

He also said there was testimony that Gosnell did not always use Digoxin and even when he did, it sometimes did not work. Staffers testified that Gosnell struggled to properly administer the drug and that ultrasounds showed some babies' hearts were still beating at the time of the abortion.

Cameron said that it did not matter if the babies that were delivered were "viable" or would have survived long. If they were born alive - and if there was breathing, motion or a heart beat indicating life - it was Gosnell's duty to care for them or at least comfort them.

He did neither, Cameron said. Instead, Gosnell or a staffer would end their short lives by stabbing them in the neck with a pair of scissors, the prosecutor said.

In his nearly four-hour closing argument, Cameron also talked about how Gosnell pinched pennies at his Philadelphia abortion clinic, reusing plastic parts that were supposed to be thrown away along with outdated drugs while he stashed $250,000 in his home, had a beach house and took vacations to Brazil and Jamaica.

Cameron said Gosnell ignored both medical and sanitary standards and patients' well-being by having his untrained and unsupervised staff administer overwhelming amounts of labor-inducing drugs, causing patients great pain and making many prematurely deliver babies in chairs, on the floor and in the toilet.

"My dog was treated better than those babies and women," he said, looking directly at Gosnell and asking a question that McMahon had asked others, "Are you human?"

Gosnell did not react.

As for the charge of racism, Cameron noted that the last time he checked, his boss, District Attorney Seth Williams, was black.

Regarding the murder charge related to Karnamaya Mongar's demise, McMahon said her 2009 death was a tragic accident and that Gosnell had not treated her any differently than any other patient. He noted that originally the medical examiner listed her death as accidental but only changed it after political pressure was exerted.

Cameron said that Mongar's death was the direct result of Gosnell's "assembly line" treatment of abortion patients where a one-size-fits-all drug was administered by the untrained staff. As for the homicide count, Cameron said the medical examiner became aware of how the clinic operated and that new information prompted the change.

"You can't be in Delaware when eighth-grade educated people are giving medicine. That is pure recklessness on the doctor's part," Cameron said, a reference to the fact that Gosnell was working part time in Delaware at a since-closed abortion clinic and staffer Lynda Williams, of Wilmington, only had an eighth grade education.

The jury also heard closing arguments from the attorney for unlicensed doctor Eileen O'Neill, who is not charged in the murders but is charged with participation in a corrupt organization and several counts of theft by deception for illegally practicing medicine in Pennsylvania.

Her attorney, James Berardinelli, claimed the theft charge was ludicrous because O'Neill did provide a service, albeit an unlicensed one.

Cameron responded that O'Neill lied about being a doctor and was aware of all the corrupt practices going on at Gosnell's clinic yet did nothing. He said that makes her as culpable as Gosnell.

In addition to the homicide charges, the 72-year-old Gosnell faces 24 counts of violating Pennsylvania's Abortion Act and 227 counts of violating a 24-hour waiting period requirement.

The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal

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