Editor's Note: This story has graphic descriptions.
The courtroom was tense today during the closing arguments in Dr. Kermit Gosnell's murder trial -- proceedings that TheBlaze witnessed first-hand.
For more than two hours, the doctor's lawyer, Jack McMahon, delivered compelling remarks directly to the jury, appealing for its members to be fair and judicious while considering the very-serious charges against his client. While McMahon painted Gosnell out to be a victim of a government witch-hunt of sorts, Assistant District Attorney Edward Cameron's remarks framed him as a dangerous and murderous doctor with little compassion for those he purportedly harmed.
THE DEFENSE'S CLOSING ARGUMENTS
McMahon offered a fiery diatribe, defending his client against the first degree murder charges for four infants allegedly killed after birth and a third-degree charge for the death of Karnamaya Mongar, an immigrant who died following an abortion. While admitting that the clinic, the Women's Medical Society, wasn't perfect, the lawyer launched into a major defensive, railing against the notion that it was a bloody "house of horrors," as prosecutors, pro-life advocates and the media have maintained.
He defended Gosnell as an asset to the community who provided low-cost health care and an opportunity for young females in the neighborhood to learn. Rather than rooting its arguments in fairness, the attorney accused the prosecution of prejudice; he called the case against Gosnell "elitist" and "racist" and said that the charges and claims have been blown out of proportion.
Dr. Kermit Gosnell's defense attorney Jack McMahon walks to the Criminal Justice Center, Monday, March 18, 2013, in Philadelphia. Gosnell, an abortion doctor who catered to minorities, immigrants and poor women at the Women's Medical Society, goes on trial Monday on eight counts of murder. Credit: AP
"This isn't a perfect place by any stretch of the imagination -- but it's not what they say it is," McMahon continued, going on to claim that Gosnell was singled-out because he is an African American.
Of particular frustration to McMahon was the use of the aforementioned term -- "house of horrors." While he noted that it "sounds good" and "makes for good press," he rejected the label and said that it has been manufactured to convince people to come alongside the prosecution's concocted vision of what unfolded.
From showing images of a clinic that was clean and well-organized (to contradict the prosecution's claims that the Women's Medical Society was a dirty and disease-ridden establishment) to continuously berating the prosecution over its tactics and purportedly untrue statements, McMahon was candid.
"That, ladies and gentleman, is not a house of horrors," he said, after showing the jury images of a clean and organized clinic environment.
After tackling the conditions within, McMahon moved on to denying that any babies were killed after birth. In making this case, he relied upon the testimony of witnesses that the prosecution called. Considering that the defense attorney didn't call any witness of his own to the stand, he moved line-by-line through transcripts in an effort to both discredit statements and to poke holes in any indication that Gosnell might have delivered live babies and murdered them once they were outside of the mothers' womb.
Kareema Cross, a former clinic worker who delivered some of the more disturbing testimony about what purportedly unfolded at the hands of Gosnell, was dismissed by McMahon as having a grudge against the doctor (read details about her testimony here). Other clinic workers, he alleged, were seemingly intimidated by the government into admitting crimes that they truly did not commit.
Photo Credit: AP
And all of the neck-snipping, McMahon maintained, was done after the babies were dead. While this theory was advanced, there wasn't much credence given to critics' notion that spinal cords would not need to be severed if the babies were truly delivered deceased, as is the claim.
Interestingly, McMahon did leave the door open to the idea that Gosnell may have conducted abortions past the 24-week cap that is currently embedded in Pennsylvania law. He wasn't explicit and he didn't devote much time to tackling the subject.
In sum, the defense delivered compelling arguments. If the goal was to create doubt, then McMahon did so to the best of his abilities, it seems. The attorney found many areas of exploitation and holes in the narrative against Gosnell -- vacancies he was able to fill with questions, curiosities and his own counter-theories.
THE PROSECUTION'S CLOSING ARGUMENTS
The prosecution delivered an equally compelling case, going through, one-by-one, all 54 witness testimonies to paint Gosnell as disorganized and murderous. Going into gruesome detail, the prosecution outlined the notion that the doctor slit babies' spinal cords and essentially forced women to go through delivery, later terminating the children after birth.
Cameron wasted little time in responding to many of McMahon's counterpoints, painting Gosnell out to be a doctor who kept poor records, who used untrained staff and, through witness testimony, a medical professional who put his patients at risk.
The assistant district attorney also appealed to the jury, noting that this case has been a turning point -- one in which people will likely think twice before merely trusting their doctors' qualifications and policies. Seeing as many of Gosnell's patients were unaware of what was allegedly going on, Cameron attempted to use the case as a call for the jury to be more aware of whom they trust with their medical care (especially considering the charges against Eileen O'Neill, a clinic staffer who is also on trial for allegedly pretending to be a doctor).
"This case is not about abortion, he stressed, noting that the procedure is legal so long as it is conducted before 24 weeks and in a safe location.
"This case is not about racism or elitism. It's not about a rush to judgment...it was conducted, held before a grand jury," Cameron continued, replying directly to the charges that McMahon had waged against the prosecution during his closing arguments.
Cameron's diatribe followed a similar layout. He noted the importance of having basic standards for clinics, regardless of whether they are in urban, suburban or rural areas. Citing Steven Massof's testimony (another unlicensed doctor who worked in the clinic), he noted that the office was purportedly flea ridden and dirty.
The district attorney added that the women who saw Gosnell trusted him and that, by the prosecution's assessment, the doctor failed to live up to the Hippocratic Oath -- and to his responsibility to patients. Then, he proceeded to go through the testimony of all 54 individuals, using their words to highlight the prosecution's belief that Gosnell killed babies after birth and that his clinic was, indeed, a "house of horrors."
This undated photo released by the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office shows Karnamaya Mongar, left, and her husband, Mr. Mongar, no first name given. Credit: AP
In addition to allegedly killing the four babies after birth, Cameron accused Gosnell of hitting patients during procedures. Of Baby A, who he said would have had a 70 to 80 percent chance of survival (the prosecution estimates that he was killed at 29.5 weeks), he said that, "It had scissors jabbed into its neck and it slowly suffocated to death" (Baby A's full story can be found here).
Cameron also argued that, at the least, it was Gosnell's responsibility to keep the babies comfortable. He said, "Whether that baby's going to live or not, you've got to make them comfortable," claiming that, in the cases of these children, that simply didn't happen.
Previously, Massof had said that "it would rain fetuses" at the clinic and that neck snipping was done to ensure that babies would die. If Massof's claims are correct, then Cameron's case is compelling.
For the jury and those in the packed courtroom, many of the gruesome details that were heard earlier in the case were recounted, including the notion that fetal remains were put through the clinic's garbage disposal. Also, the assistant district attorney claimed that, according to testimony, Gosnell would eat cereal and talk on his bluetooth while performing abortions -- bizarre allegations, to say the least.
The prosecution also mentioned Ashley Baldwin, a 15-year-old girl who apparently started working at the clinic after she completed the eighth grade. Now 22, Baldwin recounted helping in the abortion process -- something clearly not appropriate for a young teen at the time. Baldwin also said during testimony that she saw babies breathe and move -- obvious signs of life. A number of employees also heard noises coming from babies after birth.
"A baby making a noise has to have air, has to be alive," said Cameron.
Later, while closing, Cameron turned to Gosnell, pointed and asked, "Are you human?" For those angry over the charges against the doctor, this statement will certainly resonate. But for those who agree with McMahon and believe that this entire scenario has been a witch-hunt, Cameron's accusatory words will surely be met with disdain.
The jury is slated to be charged on Tuesday, with a verdict coming later this week.