Philly abortion doctor guilty in babies' deaths

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — An abortion doctor was convicted Monday of first-degree murder and could face execution in the deaths

of three babies who were born alive and then killed with scissors at his grimy, "house of horrors" clinic.

In a case that became a grisly flashpoint in

the nation's abortion debate, Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 72, was also found

guilty of

involuntary manslaughter in the overdose death of an abortion

patient. He was cleared in the death of a fourth baby, who prosecutors

say let out a whimper before the doctor snipped its spinal cord.

Gosnell, who portrayed himself as an advocate for poor and desperate women, appeared hopeful before the verdict was read and

calm afterward.

The jury, which reached its verdict on its 10th day of deliberations, will return May 21 to hear evidence on whether Gosnell

should get the death penalty.

Former clinic employees testified that Gosnell routinely performed illegal abortions past Pennsylvania's 24-week limit, that

he delivered babies who were still moving, whimpering or breathing, and that he and his assistants dispatched the newborns

by "snipping" their spines, as he referred to it.

"Are you human?" prosecutor Ed Cameron snarled during closing arguments. "To med these women up and stick knives in the backs

of babies?"

The details came out more than two years ago during an investigation of prescription drug trafficking at Gosnell's clinic

in an impoverished section of West Philadelphia.

Investigators said the clinic was a foul-smelling "house of horrors" with bags and bottles of stored fetuses, including jars

of severed feet, along with bloodstained furniture, dirty medical instruments, and cats roaming the premises.

Pennsylvania authorities had failed to

conduct routine inspections of all its abortion clinics for 15 years by

the time Gosnell's

facility was raided. In the scandal's aftermath, two top state

health department officials were fired, and Pennsylvania imposed

tougher rules for clinics.

Both sides in the highly charged abortion debate endorsed the verdict. Opponents said the case exposed the true nature of

abortion in all its disturbing detail.

"This has helped more people realize what

abortion is really about," said David O'Steen, executive director of the

National

Right to Life Committee. He said he hopes the case results in more

states passing bills that prohibit abortion "once the unborn

child can feel pain."

Supporters of legalized abortion said the case foreshadows what poor, desperate young women could face if abortion is driven

underground with more restrictive laws.

"Kermit Gosnell has been found guilty and

will get what he deserves. Now, let's make sure these women are

vindicated by delivering

what all women deserve: access to the full range of health

services including safe, high-quality and legal abortion care,"

said Ilyse G. Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Midway through the six-week trial,

anti-abortion activists accused the mainstream media of ignoring the

case because it reflected

badly on the abortion rights cause. Major news organizations

denied the allegation, though a number promptly sent reporters

to cover the trial.

Four former clinic employees had previously pleaded guilty to murder and four more to other charges. They include Gosnell's

wife, Pearl, a cosmetologist who helped perform abortions.

After prosecutors rested their five-week case, Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Minehart threw out for lack of evidence three of

seven murder counts involving aborted fetuses. That left the jury to weigh charges involving fetuses identified as Baby A,

Baby C, Baby D and Baby E.

Prosecution experts said one was nearly 30

weeks along when it was aborted, and it was so big that Gosnell

allegedly joked

it could "walk to the bus." A second fetus was said to be alive

for about 20 minutes before a clinic worker snipped its neck.

A third was born in a toilet and was moving before another clinic

employee grabbed it and severed its spinal cord, according

to testimony.

Baby E let out a whimper before Gosnell cut its neck, prosecutors alleged. Gosnell was acquitted in that baby's death, the

only one of the four in which no one testified to seeing the baby killed.

Gosnell's attorney, Jack McMahon, argued

that none of the fetuses was born alive and that any movements were

posthumous twitching

or spasms.

Gosnell did not testify, and his lawyer

called no witnesses in his defense. But McMahon argued that the doctor

provided desperate

young woman with "a solution to their problems," and he branded

prosecutors "elitist" and "racist" for pursuing his client,

who is black and whose patients were mostly poor minorities.

"I wanted to be an effective, positive force in the minority community," Gosnell told The Philadelphia Daily News in a 2010

interview. "I believe in the long term I will be vindicated."

The defense also contended that the 2009 death of 41-year-old Karnamaya Mongar of Woodbridge, Va., a Bhutanese immigrant who

had been given repeated doses of Demerol and other powerful drugs to sedate her and induce labor, was caused by unforeseen

complications.

Bernard Smalley, a lawyer who filed a lawsuit against Gosnell and others on behalf of the woman's family, said he now hopes

to bring "some sense of justice and quiet to this family that's been through so much."

The panel also convicted Gosnell of infanticide, racketeering and more than 200 counts of violating Pennsylvania's abortion

laws by performing third-term abortions or failing to counsel women 24 hours in advance.

Court officials kept the courtroom locked

for more than 30 minutes as the verdicts were read and jurors were

polled individually.

Prosecutors described Gosnell's employees as

nearly as desperate as the patients. Some had little or no medical

training,

and at least one was a teenager still in high school. One woman

needed the work to support her children after her husband's

murder.

Stephen Massof, an unlicensed medical school graduate who could not find a residency, told jurors that Gosnell taught him

how to snip babies' spines, something he then did at least 100 times at the clinic.

"I felt like a fireman in hell," Massof testified. "I couldn't put out all the fires."

Gosnell still faces federal drug charges. Authorities said that he ranked third in the state for OxyContin prescriptions and

that he left blank prescription pads at his office and let staff members make them out to cash-paying patients.

He performed thousands of abortions over a

30-year career, some on patients as young as 13. Authorities said the

medical practice

alone netted him about $1.8 million a year, much of it in cash.

Authorities found $250,000 hidden in a bedroom when they searched

his house. Gosnell also owned a beach home and several rental

properties.

"He created an assembly line with no regard for these women whatsoever," Cameron said. "And he made money doing that."