PHILADELPHIA — A jury on Tuesday began deliberating the fate of 72-year-old abortion provider Kermit Gosnell, who prosecutors say killed numerous infants who were born alive during procedures at his Philadelphia clinic.
Gosnell also faces charges in the death of a 41-year-old Virginia woman who died in 2009 after receiving an overdose of drugs during an abortion at the clinic.
During the six-week trial, which has drawn increasing attention from national news media outlets and from activists on all sides of the abortion debate, prosecutors have called dozens of witnesses to testify that Gosnell routinely performed abortions beyond Pennsylvania’s 24-week limit, often injured women under his care and repeatedly “snipped” the spinal cords of babies born alive after women in his clinic went into labor.
They have portrayed the Women’s Medical Society on Lancaster Avenue as a “house of horrors” where untrained and unsupervised staff members pumped patients full of dangerous medications and where Gosnell showed little regard for the low-income, minority and immigrant women who came through his doors.
Many of the witnesses were past employees who have pleaded guilty to various crimes and agreed to testify against their former boss.
Gosnell’s attorney, Jack McMahon, has argued that no live births took place at the clinic because Gosnell terminated the pregnancies in utero — a point he reiterated to jurors during closing arguments earlier this week. McMahon also has argued that the Virginia woman, an immigrant named Karnamaya Mongar who had been in the United States for less than a year, died from unforeseen complications rather than from an ill-advised dosage of drugs.
Last week, a judge threw out three of the murder charges against Gosnell, leaving in place the charges for infants known as only Baby A, Baby C, Baby D and Baby E. Gosnell did not testify during the trial, and the defense called no witnesses.
Attorneys for both sides wrapped up a series of impassioned closing arguments Monday, and Judge Jeffrey P. Minehart spent part of Tuesday reading charges to jurors before dismissing them to begin deliberations.
All told, Gosnell faces more than 250 criminal counts, including numerous allegations of performing third-trimester abortions, racketeering and failing to counsel patients in advance of performing abortions. Gosnell could face the death penalty if convicted on the charges of first-degree murder in the deaths of the four babies.
Reporters lingered in the empty courtroom Tuesday afternoon, where outdated equipment from Gosnell’s clinic sat covered by a tarp. Jurors ceased their deliberations shortly after 4 p.m. and are scheduled to resume early Wednesday.