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Jury convicts abortion provider Kermit Gosnell of murder
By Brady Dennis, Updated: Monday, May 13, 3:44 PM E-mail the writer
PHILADELPHIA — Abortion provider Kermit Gosnell was convicted Monday of three counts of first-degree murder for severing the spinal cords of infants born during abortions at his West Philadelphia clinic.
Gosnell also was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the 2009 death of 41-year-old Virginia woman Karnamaya Mongar, who died from an overdose of drugs while undergoing an abortion at the clinic. Prosecutors described the clinic as a “house of horrors” because of the unsanitary conditions and unsafe practices that defined it.
The trial now moves into a sentencing phase to decide whether Gosnell should receive the death penalty or face life in prison on the capital murder counts.
Gosnell reacted calmly to the verdicts, but jurors and lawyers displayed more emotion. One prosecutor was sobbing.
The verdicts were announced just before 3 p.m., a few hours after the jurors informed the judge in the case that they were hung on two charges.
It remained unclear which of the more than 260 charges against Gosnell had caused the stalemate. When jurors were brought into the courtroom about 11:15 a.m., Judge Jeffrey P. Minehart gave them what is commonly called a Spencer charge, telling them to reexamine the evidence and continue trying to reach a verdict.
“The fact that you are stuck on two counts — it shows you are considering the evidence seriously. It’s an indication of your sincerity and your objectivity,” Minehart said. “It’s a difficult case. We appreciate that.”
Minehart said the gridlock also could represent “confusion” about the details of the charges in the case and the evidence presented. He said he was sending the jurors back to further consider that evidence in hopes of reaching a consensus. But, he added, “no juror should surrender an honest conviction” merely to reach a verdict.
Monday’s verdicts came during the jurors’ 10th day of deliberations, which have stretched into a third week.
Gosnell, 72, faced four first-degree murder charges in connection with babies identified in court as A, C, D and E. He was acquitted in the death of Baby E.
He originally faced seven first-degree murder charges, but Minehart dismissed three of those charges.
Gosnell was found guilty of many lesser charges.
Prosecutors accused him of a slew of offenses, including 227 counts of failing to observe Pennsylvania’s 24-hour waiting period before performing an abortion, two dozen counts of performing abortions beyond the state’s 24-week legal limit, and various other charges, including conspiracy and running a corrupt organization.
Investigators portrayed the Women’s Medical Society on Lancaster Avenue, which Gosnell ran for decades, as a little-regulated place where untrained, uneducated employees pumped patients full of anesthesia and labor-inducing drugs, and where women often ended up injured or sick. Prosecutors said they intended to seek the death penalty in the event of a conviction on any of the first-degree murder charges.
Jurors spent significant chunks of last week rehearing testimony of key witnesses, suggesting that could be wrestling over a peculiar legal quandary at the heart of the case: To find Gosnell guilty of murder, they first had to agree that the babies were alive outside the mother’s womb.
That remained a central dispute throughout the high-profile trial, which began in March.
Gosnell’s attorney, Jack McMahon, argued that no live births took place at the clinic because Gosnell terminated the pregnancies in utero using a drug called digoxin. A medical examiner could not say conclusively whether any of the infants had been alive after delivery, in part because their remains had long been frozen in a clinic freezer.
Jurors were left to rely primarily on the eyewitness accounts of untrained former employees who testified that women often gave birth in the clinic after being pumped full of drugs to induce labor. The former employees also described seeing infants move or make noises after birth, just before Gosnell severed their spinal cords with scissors. Some of those same employees performed abortions and have pleaded guilty to crimes, including third-degree murder, while agreeing to testify against their former boss.
Co-defendant Eileen O’Neill, an unlicensed doctor who saw patients at Gosnell’s clinic but did not participate in abortions, faces multiple charges of conspiracy and theft by deception for allegedly posing as a licensed doctor.