Gosnell found guilty on 3 of 4 first degree murder counts

3:33 PM, May 13, 2013   |    comments
Dr. Kermit Gosnell (WCAU)
  • Share
  • Print
  • - A A A +

PHILADELPHIA - Dr. Kermit Gosnell has been found guilty of three of four first-degree murder charges against him.

The jury also has found the abortion doctor guilty of involuntary manslaughter and infanticide as well as 21 of 24 felonies for late-term abortions. He was acquitted on 16 charges that he didn't wait the 24-hour period before performing an abortion.

Gosnell's co-defendant, Eileen O'Neil, was found guilty of four charges.

The penalty phase for Gosnell, who also worked at a Wilmington clinic, starts Tuesday, when the jury will decide if he will be sentenced to death.

In closing arguments on April 29, attorneys left jurors with stark and impossible to reconcile portraits of the 72-year-old Gosnell.

The defense claimed Gosnell, a native Philadelphian, was an angel who eschewed fame and wealth in other cities to open a small West Philadelphia clinic to serve a largely poor and minority community. Prosecutors claimed Gosnell was a devil, driven by greed and who ignored medical standards, killed easily and routinely and trained his staff to follow his example.

Gosnell attorney John "Jack" McMahon told the jury that his client never turned away a patient who didn't have the money to pay and his files were filled with IOUs from people that Gosnell knew would never be able to pay in full.

McMahon charged the prosecution of Gosnell, a successful black man, was "racist and elitist" accusing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania of holding Gosnell's small, urban practice to "Mayo Clinic standards."

Prosecutors Joanne Pescatore and Edward Cameron claimed Gosnell was motivated by greed and treated white patients, or those who he believed had money, better than black patients, They said he hired untrained, unqualified staff on the cheap, used medicines past their expiration date and ignored safety and sanitary standards in order to fund a beach home, lavish vacations in Rio and Jamaica and a $250,000 stash of cash hidden in his teenage daughter's room.

They also said Gosnell made his abortion patients suffer in order to make his job a little easier by administering massive doses of labor-inducing drugs, causing many patients in for late-term abortions to give birth. Staffers also testified that Gosnell would sometimes slap or hit sedated abortion patients if they squirmed during the procedure.

The conditions were so chaotic in the clinic at 3801 Lancaster, one staffer said working there made him feel like "a fireman in hell."

"He is the captain of that hell," said Cameron in closing statements pointing directly at Gosnell.

While the prosecution is based in Philadelphia - where all the crimes are alleged to have occurred - Delaware has played a significant role in the case.

According to testimony, Gosnell spent most mornings out exercising or working a second job at a doctor at the Atlantic Women's Medical Center abortion clinic in Wilmington. He would then go to his West Philadelphia clinic around 8 p.m. most days and perform abortions through the night until 3 a.m.

And the woman who gave birth to "Baby A," which prosecutors said was killed by Gosnell after the child was delivered alive during a late term abortion, first met with Gosnell at the Atlantic clinic.

Gosnell then gave the woman drugs to begin the abortion and instructed her to meet him at his West Philadelphia clinic the next day to complete the procedure. Staffers testified that Baby A moved, and curled into a fetal position after the woman delivered it and Gosnell ended its life by cutting its spinal cord. One staffer was so upset by the sight of "Baby A" she took a picture with her cell phone and said from his size and color, "he could have made it."

Two key Gosnell staffers were also from Delaware: Sherry West of Bear and Lynda Williams of Wilmington, who first worked at Atlantic with Gosnell, before joining the staff of his clinic in West Philadelphia in 2008. Both West and Williams pleaded guilty to third-degree murder charges.

Atlantic Women's Medical Center closed down shortly after Gosnell's 2010 arrest when Delaware investigators discovered that all of Gosnell's patient files in Wilmington had disappeared. Operators of the clinic chose to close rather than fight regulators and a state investigation.

Ironically, both McMahon and Cameron told the jury in closing arguments that the case was not about abortion. But it was exactly because abortion was a central issue that the case generated national media coverage.

Between 20 and 30 reporters from national cable and broadcast networks along with national wire services and newspapers gathered at the Criminal Justice Center every day of deliberations, waiting on word from the jury.

The indictment and arrest of Gosnell and nine of his staffers in early 2010 set off a media firestorm as he was charged with multiple counts of murder for allegedly killing babies that were delivered alive during abortion procedures at his Women's Medical Society clinic.

In both a lengthy grand jury report and at the five-week trial, prosecutors detailed what they called a "House of Horrors" where untrained and unsupervised staffers presided over a clinic where patients sat on blood-caked furniture and medical standards were largely ignored.

Gosnell spent most days, according to testimony, out running, swimming or working his side job at a since closed abortion clinic in Wilmington. This meant that a 15-year-old girl, or a woman from Delaware with emotional issues and an eighth grade education and a woman who had Hepatitis C and was recovering from a nervous breakdown were left in charge.

Gosnell would turn up to work most nights around 8 p.m. and then work until around 3 a.m. performing abortions, many late term and well past the Pennsylvania cut-off of 24 weeks.

While Gosnell attorney McMahon grilled each prosecution witness, pressing them on inconsistent statements and questioning their motivation, he put on no defense witnesses for his client and only submitted a handful of exhibits as evidence.

Prosecutors called more than 50 people and submitted hundreds of exhibits to the jury.

But McMahon noted that prosecutors were seeking convictions without a single body to back up any of the four homicide counts and presented no objective, scientific evidence to back up claims that any of the babies at issue in the case were alive.

Forty-seven fetuses were recovered at Gosnell's clinic and not one showed evidence that it was born alive, McMahon said, adding that each and every fetus was injected with the drug digoxin ensuring any babies delivered were still born.

After the prosecution presented its case and before the jury began deliberating, Judge Jeffrey Minehart dismissed three of the seven first-degree murder charges relating to three babies that were allegedly killed at Gosnell's clinic without explanation.

But prosecutor Cameron said that digoxin was not always used, despite what was indicated in sloppy medical files, and when investigators raided the clinic no digoxin was found. And according to testimony, Cameron said even when digoxin was used it did not always work as staffers said Gosnell struggled to administer the drug and heartbeats could still be seen on ultrasounds during the abortions.

And if none of the children were born alive, Cameron asked the jury, then why did Gosnell snip the spinal columns of the babies that were delivered?

Multiple staffers testified that they saw clear signs of life in several babies after they were delivered by late-term abortion patients. One moved its arm, they said, another moved its arms and legs and pulled itself into a fetal position, a third was heard crying or whimpering after it was left in a tray on a shelf and a fourth appeared to be struggling to get out of the toilet it was delivered into before a staffer cut its spinal cord as Gosnell instructed.

On trial with Gosnell was Eileen O'Neill, an unlicensed doctor who worked at the clinic primarily caring for patients who were not seeking abortions.

O'Neill was not charged in any of the homicides but was accused of theft by deception for holding herself out as a licensed doctor when she was not, and participation in a corrupt organization.

O'Neill's attorney claimed that his client never stole anything from anyone and compared it to an unlicensed mechanic fixing a car for a fee. O'Neill's attorney James Berardinelli asked the jury if they receive a service from an unlicensed professional, what was stolen?

He also said O'Neill always consulted with Gosnell and steered far clear of the abortion operations, staying in offices on the second floor of the clinic, away from procedure rooms on the first floor.

O'Neill was the only one of 9 Gosnell staffers who were arrested and charged that did not reach a plea deal with prosecutors.

Gosnell is also facing a federal trial in September for allegedly operating a pain-killer "pill mill" out of his abortion clinic, handing out prescriptions for high-powered pain killers for cash.

(Wilmington News-Journal/DelawareOnline)

Most Watched Videos