April 30 (Bloomberg) -- Philadelphia doctor Kermit Gosnell, on trial for killing fetuses during late-term abortions, is a victim of an “incredible” rush to judgment brought on by an “elitist and racist prosecution,” his lawyer said.
In closing statements yesterday in state court in Philadelphia, defense attorney Jack McMahon accused Pennsylvania prosecutors of an irresponsible use of power and rhetoric in trying to manipulate witnesses who testified against Gosnell, many of whom worked for him and pleaded guilty to related crimes including third-degree murder. The jury is scheduled to begin deliberations today.
“This case is not a referendum on abortion,” McMahon told jurors at the city’s criminal justice center. “You’re here to decide a very narrow issue: Is Dr. Kermit Gosnell a murderer?”
Gosnell, 72, is charged with killing four babies allegedly born alive at a clinic he operated in West Philadelphia by severing their spinal cords with scissors. Prosecutors said Gosnell performed illegal third-trimester abortions and employed unlicensed and unskilled staff members to administer narcotics to patients.
Gosnell is also charged in the death of a 41-year-old patient from Bhutan who died of an overdose while undergoing an abortion in 2009. The doctor didn’t testify at the trial or call witnesses in his defense.
State court Judge Jeffrey Minehart, who is overseeing the case, dismissed three of seven first-degree murder counts against Gosnell and six lesser counts, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported April 25.
An investigation of Gosnell’s clinic was begun in 2010 after drug agents raided the facility and uncovered the death of Karnamaya Mongar, who went into cardiac arrest after clinic employees gave her lethal doses of the narcotic Demerol.
Investigators found women being treated in squalid conditions with old equipment and outdated drugs, prosecutors said. They described the clinic as a “house of horrors” with floors and walls stained with cat urine and blood. McMahon disputed that title yesterday as he showed jurors pictures of a cleaner facility.
The term is “a political press rhetoric fabrication,” McMahon said.
“Everyone wants to pigeonhole and simplify this case because they want it to be that way and it doesn’t have to be,” he told jurors.
Gosnell ran an urban clinic that catered to a poor clientele, McMahon said. He provided a service to the community and often didn’t charge his clients for treatment for colds and other ailments. Gosnell never turned away desperate troubled young women, McMahon said.
“He allowed people that were poor and didn’t have access to health insurance the ability to get health services,” McMahon said.
The government has failed to show proof of an alleged pattern of killing babies, McMahon said. Out of 47 fetuses confiscated by investigators, only two were older than 24 weeks, the legal cutoff for abortions. None of the fetuses showed signs of a live birth, McMahon said.
Witnesses testified that Gosnell snipped the necks of at least 30 fetuses. Prosecutors disputed McMahon’s claims that Gosnell used the drug Digoxin, which causes intrauterine death, before each abortion. Former staff workers testified that the drug didn’t work efficiently and Gosnell stopped using it in favor of snipping necks, assistant district attorney Edward Cameron told jurors.
“This was somebody who was going through the motions who was taking the easy way out,” Cameron told jurors.
Gosnell, dressed in a dark suit and wearing wire-framed glasses, listened intently as Cameron pointed a finger at him and accused him of performing “back alley coat hanger abortions.”
“All those patients and his workers trusted him and he took advantage of the situation,” Cameron said. “Being a doctor is not a right, it’s a responsibility. It’s a responsibility to your patient and that’s what is abused here.”
One fetus, which was aborted at 29.4 weeks, had an 80 percent change of surviving, Cameron said. Gosnell charged the mother $2,400 for the procedure that left her hospitalized with an abscess, blood clots on her heart and a scarred uterus.
“That baby would be four and a half years old now,” Cameron told jurors. “Instead it had scissors jabbed into its neck and it slowly suffocated to death.”
The case is Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Gosnell, CP-51-CR-0001667-2011, Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County (Philadelphia)
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