Editor's Note: This story contains graphic descriptions.
The court case that has both horrified and gripped the nation is coming to a close. A verdict in the Dr. Kermit Gosnell trial has been reached: The abortion doctor is guilty in three of four first-degree murder counts (these were three of the more than 250 criminal charges against him). The penalty phase of the case is expected to begin on May 21, as Gosnell may receive the death penalty for his crimes.
The emotion surrounding the case has been intense, as abortion continues to be a monumentally-contentious issue in America, specifically terminations past the 20-week mark. Throughout the six-week trial, defense attorney Jack McMahon attempted to paint the abortion doctor as a victim of racism and elitism who is being targeted by the judicial system.
Conversely, the prosecution, led by Assistant District Attorney Edward Cameron, dubbed him a heartless killer who murdered babies outside the womb. For the most part, the jury agreed with the second descriptive.
The charges against Gosnell included 258 counts in total. As stated, the three first-degree murder counts could yield the death penalty. In addition to these and an additional third-degree murder charge, the abortion doctor faced 24 counts of conducting third-trimester abortions (an illegal act) and 227 counts of failing to counsel patients a day before doing the procedure.
According to the Associated Press, "Gosnell was also convicted of infanticide, racketeering and more than 200 counts of violating Pennsylvania's abortion laws by performing third-term abortions or failing to counsel women 24 hours in advance." More specifically, he was convicted of 21 counts of abortion past the 24-week mark and 211 counts of failing to comply with a mandatory 24-hour waiting period before providing an abortion, among other charges.
Lila Rose, the Founder of Live Action, a pro-life group that has been releasing undercover videos in an effort to expose abortion practices, is naturally reacting favorably to the Gosnell verdict. In a release, she decried the "gruesome and inhuman" conditions at the clinic and said that "justice has been served."
Dr. Kermit Gosnell (Photo Credit: AP)
"Even as we celebrate this verdict, we honor and mourn as well those innocents who did not receive 'their day in court' – and we must remember that Gosnell is not an outlier within the abortion industry," she said. "We cannot allow these 'guilty' verdicts, welcome as they are, to make us complacent when it comes to the continuing abuses happening even now in abortion facilities throughout our nation."
Even Planned Parenthood welcomed the verdict. Spokesperson Eric Ferrero called Gosnell a butcher and, as USA Today notes, said the doctor's punishment is warranted.
"This was horrifying and he should be punished,'' he said. "This was not an abortion provider. This was someone preying on women.''
Perhaps the battle -- one that has created new-found interest in discussion and debate surrounding late-term abortion -- can best be summarized by looking back at the closing arguments that were advanced by both McMahon and Cameron. On April 29, TheBlaze was in the courtroom to hear these appeals; both sides pointedly defended their viewpoints, providing a look-back at key testimony in the troubling case.
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.
“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.
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
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.
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, but not compelling enough to relieve Gosnell of the murder charges against him. The attorney did find 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.
Dr. Kermit Gosnell (Photo Credit: AP)
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.”
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.
Throughout the case, TheBlaze brought you information about the victims at the clinic. Before today's verdict, five murder charges remained against Gosnell. Previously, Judge Jeffery P. Minehart dismissed three counts of first degree murder on the grounds that there was not enough proof that those three babies were born alive.
Thus, the original eight murder charges were decreased to five (four counts for babies and one for an adult woman who died after having an abortion at the clinic). Considering that the infants did not have names and were intended to be dead upon arrival, the court gave each child a letter (i.e. Baby A, Baby B, Baby C, etc.) to differentiate each circumstance. Now, let's explore information about the victims:
Baby A: According to Operation Rescue and LifeSiteNews.com, Baby A was delivered to Shaquana Abrama at 29.4 weeks gestation (this is based on an ultrasound record). Kareema Cross, one of the clinic workers, testified that the baby was the largest she had ever seen delivered at Women’s Medical Society. He apparently was so large that he didn’t fit into a plastic shoe box that Gosnell placed him in.
And according to Cross, the baby moved his arms and legs (signs of life), but his neck was allegedly cut, regardless. Cross was so shocked by the baby’s size that she, along with other clinic workers, took photos on a cell phone.
As TheBlaze and the AP highlighted, the mother of Baby A testified in Gosnell’s trial as well:
The mother of “Baby A” testified Tuesday afternoon, describing a painful three-day abortion process that started at Gosnell’s clinic in Delaware. She was 17, had an infant daughter and was told by Gosnell she was 24 weeks pregnant — the legal limit in Pennsylvania, but not in neighboring Delaware, where abortions are banned after 20 weeks.
The Chester woman said she was given abortion drugs in Delaware and sent home the first two days, then was directed to the West Philadelphia clinic the third day. She was in severe pain by then, pain that only worsened the following week, she said.
Her aunt had taken her to the clinic and paid the $1,300 fee, and they had not told her mother.
“I never felt pain like that, ever,” the woman said. “I couldn’t talk to anybody and tell anybody.”
But the teen ended up being hospitalized for two weeks with a large abscess and a blood clot near her heart. Prosecutors say she is one of countless patients injured during botched abortions or unsanitary conditions.
And that’s just one of the many alleged stories.
Baby C: Cross also testified that she saw another baby breathing for 20 minutes before it, too, was purportedly killed. Baby C apparently also responded when a clinic worker lifted its arm. But later, the clinic worker testified to seeing fellow employee Lynda Williams use scissors to snip the infant’s spinal cord. Even more shocking, Gosnell was allegedly in the room when this all unfolded.
In sum, Cross testified that she saw at least 10 babies breathe before they were murdered. She has already plead guilty to administering drugs at the clinic and is hoping for probation after cooperating with prosecutors. “I thought they were breathing. He would say they’re not really breathing,” Cross testified, according to the Associated Press.
She apparently worked at the clinic from 2005 until 2009, but was so disturbed by its practices that she took pictures and called authorities and gave a relative’s name instead of her own. In addition to her claims that babies were breathing, she also purportedly saw three move, including one that was born in a toilet, the AP reports. A fourth purportedly let out a “soft whine.”
Baby D: This baby was delivered into a toilet and, according to Cross, the child immediately began struggling and “swimming” once outside of the womb. Another clinic worker, Adrienne Moton, apparently snipped the baby’s neck while the infant’s mother purportedly watched this all unfold. According to LifeSiteNews.com, the baby was estimated to be 12-15 inches long (based on testimony).
As previously reported, in March, Moton provided sickening details about her alleged actions at the clinic, claiming that she snipped the spines of at least 10 babies; she said that another worker — and Gosnell himself — did the same. Moton plead guilty and has been in prison since 2011.
While not necessarily a victim in the court's eyes (Gosnell was found not guilty of murder), Baby E was one of the infants included in the first-degree murder charges. This baby was estimated to have fallen within the legal time frame and was said to be in utero for about 23 weeks before an abortion took place (abortions are legal up to 24 weeks in Pennsylvania).
According to LifeSiteNews.com, Ashley Baldwin, a teenager who was working at the clinic, heard the baby cry after birth, so she called Cross for help. Cross apparently confirmed this story in testimony and said that it sounded like a “whine.” Gosnell then allegedly snipped the baby’s neck.
TheBlaze highlighted Baldwin’s story earlier this year, noting that she started at the clinic at the age of 15 (she’s currently 22). According to her testimony, she saw a number of babies move, squirm — and one even “screech” — after birth.
As we previously noted, former employee, Sherry West, shared yet another horrifying story about after-birth noises. She claims that she was once called to the back room at the clinic, where aborted babies’ bodies were apparently kept on a shelf. Once there, West heard a live baby among the bodies cry out. The screaming child “really freaked” her out, she told the court.
“I can’t describe it. It sounded like a little alien,” she said, noting that she previously referred to the babies as “specimens,” because it was easier to mentally handle what was going on at the clinic.
Karnamaya Mongar: Karnamaya Mongar, an immigrant from Bhutan in South Asia, is the sole adult victim in the Gosnell trial. The 41-year-old woman survived a refugee camp for two decades before coming to America, but her fate was inevitably met after a visit to the embattled doctor’s clinic. In 2009, she died after undergoing an abortion at the Women’s Medical Society.
Relatives are claiming wrong-doing and, in addition to the criminal trial, a lawsuit is also pending against Gosnell. The Associated Press reports that the woman’s daughter, Yashoda Gurung, 24, recently testified through a translator, recapping the events that unfolded on the evening and day after her mother underwent the procedure.
In addition to labor inducing drugs, Mongar was purportedly given painkillers, as she waited for Gosnell to arrive. The prosecution charges that unlicensed staff gave Mongar a lethal combination of oral and intravenous drugs. And the Inquirer reports that too much Demerol is purportedly what led to the woman’s death.