PHILADELPHIA (The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal) - A jury in the seven-week murder trial of Kermit Gosnell begins deliberations Tuesday after an emotional close with both the prosecutor and defense attorney calling on jurors to show courage in their verdict.
Defense lawyer John "Jack" McMahon asked the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas jury Monday 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 here.
"He's the captain of that hell," Cameron said as he pointed at Gosnell, 72, who sat at the defense table. "It is time for us to extinguish that hell."
Prosecutors say Gosnell routinely cut live babies in the back of their necks to sever their spines because he didn't know how to do a proper abortion in utero. Eight former workers pleaded guilty to murder or other charges and have testified to seeing babies move, breathe or whine. Yet some said they did not consider the babies fully alive until they were charged after a 2011 grand jury investigation.
"Show the courage to tell him he was wrong. Be their voice," Cameron said.
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. On the most serious charges, prosecutors failed to provide objective, scientific proof that any of the four fetuses allegedly murdered were born alive, he said.
"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 is a bloody, ugly business as are all surgical procedures. He told the jury that a "not guilty" verdict was not "innocent" but more properly "not proven."
Gosnell's clinic has been shuttered, and two top state health department officials fired, since the FBI raided the clinic one night in 2010 looking for prescription drug abuses. Instead, they found Gosnell's other problems.
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.
Eight former workers have pleaded guilty to murder or other charges and have testified to seeing babies move, breathe or whine. Yet some said they did not consider the babies fully alive until they were charged after a 2011 grand jury investigation.
When police raided Gosnell's clinic, McMahon noted that they recovered 47 bodies and, according to medical tests none of them had ever taken a breath.
"My dog was treated better than those babies and women."
- Prosecutor Ed CameronBut Cameron said not all the patients got Digoxin. One of the aborted fetuses that had a gash in the back of its neck had no traces of Digoxin in its system.
Testimony showed that Gosnell did not always use Digoxin, and even when he did, it sometimes did not work, Cameron said. Staffers testified that Gosnell struggled to properly administer the drug and that ultrasounds showed some babies' hearts still were beating at the time of the abortion.
It did not matter if the babies that were delivered were "viable" or would have survived long, Cameron said. If they were born alive - and if even one had 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," Cameron said, looking directly at Gosnell and asking a question that Gosnell's defense lawyer had asked others: "Are you human?"
Gosnell did not react.
"I'm telling you, never in my career have I seen the presumption of innocence trampled on and stomped on as in this case."
- Defense lawyer Jack McMahonAs for the charge of racism, Cameron noted that his boss, District Attorney Seth Williams, was black.
Gosnell also is charged with third-degree murder in the 2009 death of patient Karnamaya Mongar, who came from Virginia for an abortion after she was turned away at three other clinics starting when she was 15 weeks pregnant. McMahon called her demise a tragic accident and that Gosnell had not treated her any differently than any other patient. Originally, the medical examiner listed her death as accidental but changed it only after political pressure was exerted, McMahon said.
Cameron said Mongar's death was the direct result of Gosnell's "assembly line" treatment of abortion patients where untrained staff administered a one-size-fits-all drug.
As the medical examiner became aware of how the clinic operated, new information prompted the murder change, Cameron said.
"You can't be in Delaware when eighth-grade educated peopl are giving medicine. That is pure recklessness on the doctor's part," Cameron said. Gosnell worked part time in Delaware at a since-closed abortion clinic, and one staffer had only an eighth-grade education.
Unlicensed doctor Eileen O'Neill, 56, of Phoenixville, Pa., also is on trial with Gosnell. She 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 lawyer, 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 Gosnell faces 24 counts of violating Pennsylvania's Abortion Act by performing illegal third-trimester abortions and 227 counts of violating a 24-hour waiting period requirement, failing to counsel patients and racketeering. He did not testify during the trial.
Wilmington Deleware News Journal