PHILADELPHIA — Dr. Kermit Gosnell, the West Philadelphia abortionist accused of murdering a woman and three babies who were born alive after surviving abortions, has been found guilty of first-degree murder in the deaths of three babies born alive but was acquitted in the death of a fourth baby.
Gosnell, 72, was also found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the overdose death of 41-year-old Karnamaya Mongar, who died of complications following an abortion.
The sentencing phase of the trial that lasted five weeks and saw the jury deliberate for 10 days is set to begin. Gosnell faces the death penalty, but Pennsylvania has not executed anyone since 1999.
According to court reporter J.D. Mullane, who has been in the courtroom every day of the trial, “Gosnell stood stoically, hands clasped, as the jury foreman repeated ‘Guilty of murder in the first degree’ three times.”
The timing of the verdict was a surprise to some, as, earlier today, jurors informed the judge that they were unable to reach a verdict on two of the more than 200 counts.
But common-pleas Judge Jeffrey Minehart ordered the jury to reconsider the evidence and the laws and attempt to reach unanimous agreement.
The Philadelphia native originally faced seven first-degree murder charges, but Minehart dismissed three of those charges earlier in the trial.
Gosnell was found guilty of killing Baby A, Baby C and Baby D and found not guilty of killing Baby E.
On top of the murder charges, Gosnell was also found guilty of hundreds of charges, ranging from infanticide to running a corrupt organization.
Despite an almost complete media blackout initially, the trial began a public debate when it was learned that the state of Pennsylvania hadn’t inspected Gosnell’s business in 17 years. The original raid on the facility only took place due to suspicion that the site was operating as a “pill mill.”
A drug raid on the business had revealed an alleged “house of horrors” that eventually caused Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams to charge Gosnell.
Eight co-defendants have already pleaded guilty but have not yet been sentenced.
The grand jury reported that when babies were born alive in Gosnell’s facility, Gosnell and his staffers would slit their throats or stab them in the neck with scissors to sever their spinal cords. Gosnell even kept aborted babies in jars, sometimes in the same freezers where employees kept their lunches.
The abortionist even reportedly joked about the size of one his baby victims, saying, “This baby is big enough to walk around with me or walk me to the bus stop.”
Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore told jurors that Gosnell forced women to deliver live babies who were then killed by staff. “The standard practice here was to slay babies. That’s what they did,” said Pescatore.
A medical assistant, Adrienne Moton, who has already pleaded guilty to third-degree murder, told the jury that she snipped the spines of at least 10 babies in Gosnell’s facility. She also said Gosnell had instructed her in that method of killing babies.
The judge in the case threw out three of the eight murder charges after Gosnell’s defense attorney, Jack McMahon, argued, “If we are going … to say a baby is born alive because it moves one time without any other movement, that is ludicrous.”
Abortion providers said justice had been served by the verdict, but also claimed Gosnell’s conviction demonstrated the need to protect abortion rights.
“This case has made clear that we must have and enforce laws that protect access to safe and legal abortion, and we must reject misguided laws that would limit women’s options and force them to seek treatment from criminals like Kermit Gosnell,” said Eric Ferrero, Planned Parenthood Federation of America's vice president for communications, in a statement.
Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, implied that pro-life advocacy was responsible for the fact that women suffer at the hands of abortionists like Gosnell.
Said Hogue, “Anti-choice politicians, and their unrelenting efforts to deny women access to safe and legal abortion care, will only drive more women to back-alley butchers like Kermit Gosnell.”
Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., the co-chairman of the House Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, countered that Gosnell’s actions were not fundamentally different from the killing of unborn children that occurs throughout the nation in legal abortion facilities.
“With today’s murder convictions of Dr. Gosnell, we’ve got to encourage Americans to ask: How different, really, is Gosnell’s 'House of Horrors' from abortions that occur in clinics throughout the country?” Smith asked in a statement. “Not much, not much at all.”
Added Smith, “There are Kermit Gosnells all over America — predators, child abusers, exploiters of women. Some abortionists may have cleaner sheets than Gosnell, and better sterilized equipment and better trained accomplices, but what they do — what Gosnell did — kill babies and hurt women — is the same.”
Earlier Case Cited
Smith also cited the earlier case of Dr. Kenneth Edelin, the abortionist whose 1975 murder conviction was subsequently overturned by the Massachusetts Supreme Court.
“How did Planned Parenthood react to the reversal? With euphoric celebration,” Smith said. “Years later, Edelin became the chairman of the board of Planned Parenthood Federation of America — and was given the Margaret Sanger Award in 2008. (In 2009, Planned Parenthood gave the Sanger award to Hillary Clinton.) And, like Gosnell, not a single tear for the boy murdered in Boston City Hospital.”
National Right to Life's president, Carol Tobias, compared Gosnell’s criminal actions to the deaths of babies killed in their mothers' wombs by late-term abortions carried out at Planned Parenthood facilities.
“Kermit Gosnell was convicted of murder for severing the necks of just-born babies, but those babies would have died just as painfully if he had killed them inside the womb, as most late-term abortionists do,” Tobias said. “The result is the same for the baby, whether it meets its end in a shabby clinic like Gosnell’s or a brand-new Planned Parenthood facility — a painful death.”
Register correspondent and blogger Matt Archbold writes from Philadelphia.