March 19, 2013

Abortion doctor trial called 'lynching'

A defense attorney in the death-penalty trial claims the case is an 'elitist and racial prosecution.'

By MARYCLAIRE DALE / The Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — A lawyer defending a Philadelphia abortion provider on murder charges accused officials of an "elitist and racist prosecution," as the death-penalty trial opened Monday.

Kermit Gosnell
click image to enlarge

Dr. Kermit Gosnell

The Associated Press

Lawyer Jack McMahon also accused city officials of "a prosecutorial lynching" of his client, Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who is black.

Gosnell, 72, is accused of running a rogue clinic that ignored the state ban on third-term abortions and 24-hour waiting periods. Prosecutors say he also maimed desperate, often poor women and teenagers by letting his untrained staff perform abortions and give anesthesia. And they say he got rich doing it, by performing a high volume of substandard abortions.

Police found $250,000 in cash during a 2010 search of his home, Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore said. Gosnell used outmoded drugs and unorthodox methods, forcing women to endure labor and then deliver live babies that were then killed by staff with scissors, she said. Normally, the fetus is killed in utero.

"The standard practice here was to slay babies. That's what they did," said Pescatore, who echoed a 2011 grand jury report in calling the clinic "a house of horrors."

Staff went along with the routine because they were nearly as desperate as the patients, she said. The two other "doctors" on staff were allegedly medical school doctors without licenses. The employee giving anesthesia was a sixth-grade dropout, while a 15-year-old high school student helped in the surgical and recovery rooms, she said.

McMahon countered that prosecutors are applying "Mayo Clinic" standards to Gosnell's inner-city office in West Philadelphia. Gosnell, he said, performed as many as 1,000 abortions in a year, and at least 16,000 over his long career – with a lower-than-average complication rate, he said.

"This is a targeted, elitist and racist prosecution of a doctor who's done nothing but give (back) to the poor and the people of West Philadelphia," McMahon insisted to the predominantly black jury, as Gosnell sat taking notes. "It's a prosecutorial lynching of Dr. Kermit Gosnell."

Gosnell is charged with killing seven babies born alive, along with Karnamaya Mongar, a newly arrived, 41-year-old refugee from Bhutan. Prosecutors say Gosnell's staff gave the 90-pound woman a lethal dose of anesthesia and painkillers during a 2009 abortion.

But McMahon said he will prove that she also had other drugs in her system, perhaps from an attempt to self-abort the fetus using a tuberculosis drug. She also had bronchial problems that she did not report and died of unfortunate complications, he said.

As for the infant deaths, McMahon vowed to prove that none were born alive. No physical evidence exists in five of the deaths; the murder charges are instead based on staff testimony that the babies moved or cried. Authorities have a photograph of the sixth baby and the body of the seventh. But McMahon argued that neither took a breath.

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)