Kermit Gosnell trial jurors are asked about Fox News documentary

Jurors on Monday began their second week of deliberations in the capital murder trial of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, but not before inquiries about which programs they watched — or didn’t watch — over the weekend.

Gosnell’s attorney, Jack McMahon, arrived at court fuming over “See No Evil – The Kermit Gosnell Case,” an hour-long documentary that aired multiple times on Fox News in recent days. McMahon called it “shameful” to run such a show, which drew in part on material from a 2011 grand jury report into the conditions at Gosnell’s West Philadelphia clinic, while a jury continued to weigh his fate.

“It’s outrageous,” McMahon told reporters who had gathered to await a verdict Monday. “I’ve never seen anything so irresponsible in journalism.”

After McMahon aired his complaints to Judge Jeffrey P. Minehart, the judge instructed jurors to notify his staff if any of them had seen or heard details of the show during the weekend. He also told them it should not factor into their decision-making.

“It has nothing to do with this trial,” Minehart told jurors late Monday morning, before sending them back to resume their deliberations. There was no indication that any jurors, who have been instructed by the judge to avoid all media coverage of the trial, had watched the program.


Gosnell’s attorney, Jack McMahon, arrived at court fuming over an hour-long documentary that aired multiple times on Fox News in recent days called “See No Evil – The Kermit Gosnell Case.” (Yong Kim/AP)

In the afternoon, the panel was excused for the day without reaching a verdict.

Gosnell, a 72-year-old doctor who performed thousands of abortions over the years at his Women’s Medical Society on Lancaster Avenue, faces four first-degree murder charges on allegations that he killed infants born alive during procedures at his Philadelphia clinic.

Gosnell also faces charges in the death of a 41-year-old Virginia woman, Karnamaya Mongar, who died in 2009 after receiving an overdose of drugs during an abortion at the clinic.

During the six-week trial, which has drawn a national spotlight, prosecutors called numerous 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 painted his clinic 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.

McMahon has maintained that no live births took place at the clinic because Gosnell terminated the pregnancies in utero. He also argued that Mongar, who had recently immigrated to the United States, died from unforeseen complications rather than from an ill-advised dosage of drugs. Gosnell did not testify during his trial, and the defense called no witnesses.

Beyond the murder charges, Gosnell faces hundreds of other 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.

Jurors on Monday also asked the judge for detailed definitions of the first- and third-degree murder charges Gosnell faces, as well as for a definition of the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter.

Minehart explained the criteria needed for a conviction on each of those charges.

Brady Dennis is a national reporter for The Washington Post, focusing on food and drug issues.
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