Abortion Doctor Found Guilty of 1st Degree Murder
PHILADELPHIA (CNN) — A Philadelphia abortion provider who killed babies by cutting their spinal cords with scissors was found guilty of first-degree murder on Monday.
The conviction on three counts of first-degree murder means Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 72, could be sentenced to death.
A prosecutor sobbed after the verdict in the high-profile case was announced. Gosnell appeared shocked. He let out a sigh and shook his head back and forth.
Defense attorney Jack McMahon told CNN it’s too soon to tell whether he will appeal the conviction.
“We were disappointed. We put on a vigorous defense. We think it went well for us in the courtroom,” he said. “But the jury spoke, and we respect the jury’s verdict.”
Gosnell also was accused in the death of Karnamaya Mongar, 41, who died of an anesthetic overdose during a second-trimester abortion at his West Philadelphia clinic. In that case, the jury found him guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
Gosnell was also found guilty of 21 counts of abortion of the unborn, 24 weeks or older.
In Pennsylvania, abortions past 24 weeks are illegal unless the health of the mother is at stake.
The case next moves to the penalty phase, when jurors will weigh whether to give Gosnell a death sentence. It’s possible the doctor will testify, said William Brennan, an attorney who represented Gosnell earlier in the case.
“I would think there would be a lot of mitigation in this case and I think probably, and this is a guess, but probably at that time the jury would hear from Dr. Gosnell,” he said.
Earlier Monday, the jury, after deliberating for two weeks, said it was hung on two counts, and the judge instructed them to continue trying to reach a verdict on them.
Judge Jeffrey P. Minehart also told jurors that their progress showed they were “considering the evidence seriously.”
Gosnell’s co-defendant, Eileen O’Neill, 56, was found guilty of conspiracy to operate a corrupt organization and two counts of theft by deception for operating without a license to practice medicine. O’Neill, a medical school graduate, was not charged with performing illegal abortions.
Both pleaded not guilty.
Eight people involved in Gosnell’s clinic, called the Women’s Medical Society, have pleaded guilty to various charges, including four to murder.
The grand jury report from 2011 says the “people who ran this sham medical practice included no doctors other than Gosnell himself, and not even a single nurse,” yet they still made diagnoses, performed procedures and administered drugs.
McMahon, in an impassioned, 2½-hour closing argument, said that none of the infants was killed; rather, he said, they were already dead as a result of Gosnell administering the drug Digoxin, which can cause abortion.
Gosnell also was accused of reusing unsanitary instruments; performing procedures in filthy rooms, including some in which litter boxes and animals allegedly were present at the time; and allowing unlicensed employees — including a teenage high school student — to perform operations and administer anesthesia.
The remains of aborted fetuses were stored in water jugs, pet food containers and a freezer at the clinic, the city’s chief medical examiner Sam Gulino testified.
Former employee Kareema Cross said Gosnell regularly performed illegal late-term abortions that he routinely recorded as “24.5 weeks.”
McMahon, who called no witnesses, accused prosecutors of “the most extraordinary hype and exaggeration in the history of the criminal justice system,” even adding that they are “elitist” and “racist.”
Gosnell has been accused by authorities of preying on low-income, minority women. McMahon argued that Gosnell offered access to health care for people who were poor and without health insurance.
During his closing remarks, Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Edward Cameron turned to Gosnell and yelled, “Are you human?”
Gosnell smirked at Cameron without speaking. Cameron then continued, declaring, “It’s time for us to extinguish the fire he created.”
The doctor was first charged in January 2011.
The case has drawn national attention and sharp criticism from anti-abortion activists.
But that doesn’t mean it sets a precedent, CNN legal analyst Paul Callan said.
“The testimony in this case was so graphic and so horrific. It was described literally as a house of horrors taking place in this Philadelphia clinic,” Callan said. “So I think that most objective observers will say that ultimately this will be an isolated case, hopefully, and that it’s simply a case where prosecutors had to act. It had nothing to do with being pro- or anti-abortion.”
CNN’s Catherine E. Shoichet, Josh Levs, David Ariosto, Jason Hanna and Dana Ford contributed to this report.
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