Emotions were high in a Philadelphia courtroom yesterday as attorneys made closing arguments in the murder trial of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, who could face the death penalty if found guilty of killing four live babies with scissors.
Both the prosecutor and defense attorney asked the jurors, who will begin deliberations today, to show “courage” after the seven-week trial that has both transfixed and horrified the nation.
In addition to the four counts of first-degree murder in the infant deaths, Gosnell also faces one count of third-degree murder in the death of Karnamaya Mongar, 24 counts of performing abortions past Pennsylvania’s 24-week gestational age, 227 counts of performing abortions without giving the woman the mandated 24-hour waiting period, and other counts involving racketeering and operating a “corrupt organization.”
In addition, Eileen O’Neill, 56, an unlicensed doctor who worked in the family-practice section of Gosnell’s clinic, faces counts of theft by deception and participating in a corrupt organization.
The jury deliberations are expected to be lengthy as the jurors have to work their way through the 30 pages of charges, deliberating on each one.
Gosnell’s defense attorney, John “Jack” McMahon, asked the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas jury to stand up to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, accusing the prosecutors of exaggerating, intimidating and abusing their power in a racist and elitist prosecution against Gosnell, a black doctor serving a poor community.
“We know why he was targeted,” McMahon told the jury, which is almost evenly divided between blacks and whites. “If you don’t see it, you are living in some sort of la-la land.”
“I want you to have the courage to say ‘no’ to the government,” he said.
McMahon didn’t call a single witness to the stand, instead giving an impassioned, 2 1/2-hour closing argument refuting the prosecution’s evidence and once again claiming that the infants were not killed. He said they were already dead after Gosnell administered the drug Digoxin, which can cause abortion.
McMahon accused prosecutors of “the most extraordinary hype and exaggeration in the history of the criminal justice system.”
“These are desperate, young girls who were in trouble. But he provided these desperate, young girls with relief,” McMahon said.
He went through a series of photos of the Women’s Medical Clinic, and said the place wasn’t a “house of horrors,” as the prosecution claims.
“This isn’t a perfect place by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s not what they say it is,” McMahon bellowed. “Are you going to believe [prosecutor Ed Cameron] or your lying eyes.”
McMahon then asked the jury to find courage and “be fair,” he said.
“Be true to yourself,” he said. “Go by what the evidence is, not what everyone wants it to be.”
During his closing arguments, Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Edward Cameron said, “This case is not about us. It’s about Karnamaya Mongar and those four babies that are dead, and getting them justice.”
During Cameron’s statement, the examination chair with stirrups, a sonogram machine and other medical devices that were on permanent display in the center of the courtroom during the trial were returned to their place facing the jury box.
Cameron went through the laborious process of summarizing the testimony of almost all 54 witnesses who took the stand during the trial. As he read through the highlights of the testimony, the jury had to look at four enlarged photos of three fetuses, and a photo of Mongar and her husband.
At one point Cameron turned to Gosnell, 72, and yelled at him.
“Are you human?” he asked, hands on his hips while Gosnell smirked back at him.
Cameron quoted from one of Gosnell’s staffers, who said he felt like “a fireman in hell” while he was working in the clinic.
“He’s the captain of that hell,” Cameron said as he pointed at Gosnell. “It is time for us to extinguish that hell.”
“Show the courage to tell him he was wrong. Be their voice,” he said.
Nine staffers who worked in the west Philadelphia medical office, including Gosnell’s wife and sister-in-law, were also charged and eight have pleaded guilty.