Kirsten Anderson reports directly from Philadelphia after attending today's court proceedings
PHILADELPHIA, April 29, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Closing arguments began today in the capital murder trial of abortionist Kermit Gosnell, who stands accused of murdering three babies born alive at his West Philadelphia abortion clinic. Workers at the clinic testified that they and Gosnell routinely severed the spinal cords of babies born alive after late-term abortions using scissors, a process they called “snipping.” Gosnell is also facing a third-degree murder charge for the death of Karnamaya Mongar, a Bhutanese refugee who was given a lethal overdose of narcotic pain medication.
The main point of contention in the capital murder case is whether the babies whose necks were severed by Gosnell and his staff were alive or dead when those injuries occurred. Defense attorney Jack McMahon claims that it would have been impossible for the babies – whom workers testified they saw move and even scream – to be alive at birth because they received injections of Digoxin, a toxin designed to stop the heart from beating.
But Assistant District Attorney Ed Cameron said that during the FBI drug raid that first uncovered the filthy conditions at the clinic back in 2010, Digoxin was not among the drugs found on the premises. Cameron also reminded jurors that clinic workers said Gosnell often missed the heart when giving injections, and that Digoxin “never worked. The heart was always beating.”
Defense attorney McMahon accused the City of Philadelphia of running a “racist” prosecution against his client, who is black. He said Gosnell “offered a service” to the low-income, largely minority clientele of his abortion business that they would otherwise have been unable to afford. He accused the prosecution of elitism for comparing the cut-rate conditions at Gosnell’s filthy inner-city abortion clinic – where equipment was outdated and unsterile, gloves were reused across patients, and flea-ridden cats roamed and defecated freely – to the same standards as surgical centers serving wealthier neighborhoods.
Gosnell “never turned away” desperate young girls who came to his clinic seeking abortions, said McMahon, even after 24 weeks, which is the legal cut-off for abortions in Pennsylvania. “He offered relief … a solution to their problem,” McMahon said. Gosnell is also facing 23 counts of performing illegal late-term abortions.
“I’m not going to say that didn’t happen,” McMahon told jurors. “I’d be lying to you if I did.” But he argued that the government had not provided enough physical evidence with which to convict his client, and told jurors that a “not-guilty” verdict was not the same as finding Gosnell innocent.
“’Not guilty’ just means ‘not proven,’” McMahon said. “It doesn’t mean innocent.”
McMahon acknowledged that the two-month long trial had been an emotional one, marked by horrifying testimonies and images of dead babies with holes in their necks. “If it didn’t affect you, there would be something wrong with you,” he told the jury, but urged them to resist what he called a “tsunami” of “hype” against Gosnell. He accused the prosecution of exaggerating the severity of the squalor inside the abortion center, claiming that the “House of Horrors” label it earned from prosecutors was “the most extraordinary hype and exaggeration in the history of the criminal justice system.”
He also said it was a distraction.
“You can commit murder in the cleanest place in the world,” McMahon said.
Both McMahon and Assistant D.A. Cameron denied that the trial had anything to do with abortion.
“This is not a referendum on abortion,” said McMahon. “Abortion isn’t pretty … it’s not. It’s bloody and it’s real.”
Said Cameron, “Abortion is legal … as long as you follow the rules.” But he said Gosnell performed “back-alley, coat-hanger abortions.”
Regardless of both attorneys’ insistence that the case has nothing to do with legal abortion, pro-life activists are pointing to the case as an example of the semantic gymnastics surrounding the issue. Not even Gosnell’s defense lawyer denies Gosnell was killing babies. Over and over again, McMahon told the jury that babies were injected with Digoxin, which he called “the killing drug” in order “to kill the babies intrauteral [sic].” But according to state law, as long as those deaths occurred in utero, they were not murder. He said the burden was on the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the babies had survived until birth.
The distinction “is maybe a 15-minute or half-hour time frame and 10 inches of physical space,” Michael Geer, president of the Pennsylvania Family Institute, told the New York Times. “I think it’s going to resurrect a debate about the humanity of the unborn child.”
As the day began, a lone pro-abortion protester stood in the rain in front of the Juanita Kidd Criminal Justice Center holding a sign that read “More restrictions = More Gosnells.”
But attorney Jeanneane Maxon of Americans United for Life spoke to reporters outside the court Monday and said her organization plans to use the Gosnell case to push for additional safety legislation for abortion, including Born Alive Infant Protection laws to mandate lifesaving treatment for babies who survive attempted abortions, and stricter standards for abortion facilities.
“This is today’s back-alley abortion situation,” Maxon said of Gosnell. “This is not an aberration. Situations like Kermit Gosnell occur across the country.” She said that in the last three years, fifteen states have had abortionists under investigation for similar crimes.
Maxon said she doubted Gosnell’s lawyer’s claim that only dead babies had their necks “snipped.” “Why are they snipping the backs of the necks of these babies if they were not born alive?” she asked reporters.
She alleged that at one point during the trial, McMahon said “We don’t have the answers [as to why their necks were snipped]. Maybe they were feeling pain.”
Said Maxon, “Why would a dead baby feel pain?”
Now that the trial has come to a close, the jury will have to decide whether to find Gosnell guilty of murder. If they find him guilty of the three counts of murdering infants, he could face the death penalty