Guide to Philadelphia abortion doctor murder case

AP News
Posted: May 13, 2013 5:07 PM
Guide to Philadelphia abortion doctor murder case

Longtime Philadelphia abortion provider Dr. Kermit Gosnell was found guilty Monday of first-degree murder in the deaths of three babies prosecutors said were delivered alive and killed, and guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the drug-overdose death of a patient who had undergone an abortion. He was acquitted in the murder of a fourth baby. A look at key facts in the case:



In 2010, federal agents raided Gosnell's clinic in search of drug violations but instead stumbled upon "deplorable and unsanitary" conditions, including blood on the floor and parts of aborted fetuses in jars.

State regulators shut down the Women's Medical Society clinic in west Philadelphia and suspended Gosnell's license.



A nearly 300-page grand jury report released in 2011 described Gosnell's clinic as a filthy, foul-smelling operation that was overlooked by regulators. The district attorney called it a "house of horrors."

Prosecutors said Gosnell made millions of dollars over three decades performing thousands of dangerous abortions, many of them illegal late-term procedures. The clinic had no trained nurses or medical staff other than Gosnell, a family physician not certified in obstetrics or gynecology, yet authorities say many administered anesthesia, painkillers and labor-inducing drugs.

Furniture and blankets in Gosnell's clinic were stained with blood, instruments were not properly sterilized and disposable medical supplies were used repeatedly, the grand jury report said. Bags, jars and bottles holding aborted fetuses were scattered throughout the building, which reeked of cat urine because of the animals allowed to roam freely.

State regulators ignored complaints about Gosnell and the 46 lawsuits filed against him and made just five annual inspections since the clinic opened in 1979, investigators said. Several state employees were fired and two agencies overhauled their regulations after the allegations.



Gosnell was charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of four newborns and third-degree murder in the 2009 death of a 41-year-old Bhutanese refugee who prosecutors say received lethal doses of sedatives and painkillers at the clinic while awaiting an abortion. He also was charged with violating Pennsylvania abortion law by performing abortions after 24 weeks, operating a corrupt organization and other crimes.

He pleaded not guilty and remained held without bail after his arrest.

Prosecutors estimated Gosnell ended hundreds of pregnancies by inducing labor and cutting the babies' spinal cords and caused scores of women to suffer infections and permanent internal injuries, but they said they couldn't prosecute more cases because he destroyed files.

Eight clinic workers including Gosnell's wife, a beautician accused of helping him perform illegal third-term abortions, pleaded guilty various crimes. Three of Gosnell's staffers, including an unlicensed medical school graduate and a woman with a sixth-grade education, pleaded guilty to third-degree murder for their roles in the woman's overdose death or for cutting babies in the back of the neck to ensure their demise.

Gosnell still faces federal drug charges for running what investigators said was a "pill mill" at his street-corner clinic, where they allege a steady stream of people paid for painkiller prescriptions.



Abortion-rights and anti-abortion activists alike have decried Gosnell's alleged offenses from the time of his arrest in 2011. The case added fuel to the heated national debate over late-term abortions and oversight of providers.

Abortion-rights supporters have said state and local authorities apparently didn't enforce existing regulations and that women would be safer if they had more options. Anti-abortion activists have said self-policing along with regulations in many states are insufficient and that tighter restrictions are needed.



In an interview with the Philadelphia Daily News after the clinic was raided, Gosnell described himself as someone who wanted to serve the poor and minorities in the neighborhood where he grew up and raised his six children, who include a doctor and a college professor.

Gosnell's defense lawyer, Jack McMahon, disputes that any babies were born alive. He has suggested that the woman who died, Karnamaya Mongar, had undisclosed respiratory problems that could have caused fatal complications.

McMahon has accused officials of "a targeted, elitist and racist prosecution" and "a prosecutorial lynching" of his client, who is black, and of applying "Mayo Clinic" standards to Gosnell's inner-city, cash-only clinic. He said Gosnell performed as many as 1,000 abortions annually, and at least 16,000 over his long career, with a lower-than-average complication rate.



During the trial, which began March 18, Gosnell's former employees testified that they were just doing what their boss trained them to do and described long, chaotic days performing gruesome work for little more than minimum wage paid under the table. An assistant testified she snipped the spines of at least 10 babies at Gosnell's direction, sobbing as she recalled taking a cellphone photograph of one baby she thought could have survived, given his size and pinkish color.

Mongar's 24-year-old daughter testified about the labor-inducing drugs and painkillers her mother was given as she waited hours for Gosnell to arrive for the procedure. She said her mother was later taken to a hospital, only after firefighters struggled to cut bolts off a side door of the clinic, but she died the next day.

Prosecutors wrapped up their five-week case April 18 with a former worker at Gosnell's clinic who testified that she saw more than 10 babies breathing before they were killed. The defense called no witnesses and Gosnell did not testify in his own defense.

Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Minehart threw out three of the seven murder charges involving aborted babies for lack of sufficient evidence from prosecutors that those three babies were born alive and then killed.

McMahon reiterated in closing arguments his assertion that Gosnell was targeted because he is black. He said his client's clinic wasn't perfect but it also wasn't the criminal enterprise and "house of horrors" that prosecutors claim.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the infant deaths.



Weeks into the trial, some religious leaders and conservative commentators called some media outlets to task for their lack of coverage in the Gosnell trial. Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput said the Gosnell case is "exactly the kind of topic that brings on a sudden case of snow blindness" in the media.

Philadelphia-based news organizations have regularly covered the case since 2011 including the monthlong trial, as has The Associated Press. Some national television news outlets sent reporters to the trial after the allegations of underreporting arose.

Amid the outcry, White House spokesman Jay Carney was asked if President Barack Obama was aware of the case. Carney said Obama "does not and cannot take a position on an ongoing trial," but added that "the things you hear and read about this case are unsettling."



Gosnell was found guilty Monday of first-degree murder in the deaths of three babies born alive and of involuntary manslaughter in the patient's overdose death. He was acquitted him in the death of a fourth baby.

First-degree murder, defined in Pennsylvania as the premeditated and malicious killing of another person, comes with a sentence of execution by lethal injection or life in prison without the chance of parole.

Jurors will return May 21 to hear evidence on what sentence Gosnell should receive; prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Though he did not testify during his trial, he could take the stand in the penalty phase.