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Philly abortion doctor found guilty of murder

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By The Philadelphia Inquirer
Monday, May 13, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

PHILADELPHIA — Kermit Barron Gosnell — the West Philadelphia doctor whose career in urban medicine began during the “war on poverty” and ended 40 years later as a hated symbol of the anti-abortion movement — was found guilty of first-degree murder on Monday in the deaths of three infants by a Philadelphia jury.

The jury acquitted Gosnell of one count of first-degree murder involving a baby that prosecutors said was born alive and killed during an abortion.

In Pennsylvania, first-degree murder — the premeditated, malicious killing of a person — is punishable by death by lethal injection or life in prison without chance of parole.

Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey P. Minehart set the beginning of Gosnell's death penalty phase for a week from Tuesday.

The Common Pleas Court jury of seven women and five men immediately began preparing for a “penalty phase hearing” where they will hear evidence from the prosecution and defense before deciding whether Gosnell, 72, should live or die.

The Common Pleas Court jury of seven women and five men found Gosnell guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the 2009 death of a 41-year-old abortion patient, Karnamaya Mongar, who the jury determined was overdosed on Demerol by Gosnell's untrained staff.

Gosnell attorney Jack McMahon called it a “very difficult case” to defend and said there was “a little bit of feeling on the defense part of what salmon must feel swimming upstream.”

The jury found Gosnell's co-defendant Eileen O'Neill, 56, of Phoenixville guilty of two counts of theft by deception and two counts of conspiracy involving her work as an unlicensed doctor seeing patients in the family practice of Gosnell's Women's Medical Society clinic.

Minehart let O'Neill remain free on $30,000 bail pending sentencing on July 15.

Unlicensed doctor Stephen Massof, a former clinic worker who grew up in Mt. Lebanon, is awaiting sentencing in the case.

Massof, who testified that he believed Gosnell was trying to help vulnerable women seeking abortions, is awaiting sentencing for pleading guilty to third-degree murder for two infant deaths. He pleaded guilty to a charge of illegally prescribing painkillers through Gosnell's clinic in 2006 and 2007.

The jury, which began deliberating late on April 30 after sitting through six weeks of often grisly testimony and evidence, found Gosnell guilty of numerous violations of the state Abortion Control Act and racketeering charges involving his clinic's operation.

For Gosnell, the journey leading to the verdict began about 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 18, 2010. After working the day at an abortion clinic in Wilmington, Del., Gosnell returned to West Philadelphia to begin a series of abortions that typically took him and his staff into the early morning hours of the next day.

Arms full with bags containing his dinner and fresh clams for his pet turtles, Gosnell was cradling a cellphone on his shoulder, talking to his third wife when he was accosted by agents from a federal-state task force with a search warrant for the clinic.

The agents were investigating the sale of prescriptions for oxycodone and other addictive narcotic medicines, and they suspected the scripts were coming from Women's Medical Society.

As Gosnell calmly led them into the rambling three-story brick building, the agents encountered Gosnell's staff and a half-dozen women sedated and in advanced labor waiting for Gosnell to perform abortions.

While searching for evidence in the drug investigation, agents found other, more-shocking evidence: unsanitary conditions including blood and body fluids on the floor and furniture, the odor of a pet store permeating the building from Gosnell's cat, fish and turtles, and the remains of aborted fetuses and fetal body parts stored around the clinic.

Within a week, state health officials had suspended Gosnell's medical license and three months later moved to permanently close the 30-year-old clinic.

In January 2011, the District Attorney's office announced charges against Gosnell, alleging that he regularly performed illegal late-term abortions and used scissors to snip the spines of babies born alive. Nine untrained clinic employees — many who administered medicine, did ultrasound exams and assisted in abortions — were charged, including Gosnell's wife, Pearl, 52.

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