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Doctor Kermit Gosnell found guilty of murdering infants in late-term abortions

  • GosnellVerdictAtty_0513_FNN.jpg

    May 13, 2013: In this photo, Dr. Kermit Gosnell's attorney Jack McMahon speaks to reporters after a verdict was delivered in the abortion doctor's murder trial. A jury convicted Gosnell for killing three babies born alive at his Philadelphia clinic, and manslaughter in the death of a patient.Fox News

  • Abortion Clinic Death_Cala.jpg

    FILE - In this March 8, 2010 file photo, Dr. Kermit Gosnell is seen during an interview with the Philadelphia Daily News at his attorney's office in Philadelphia. Gosnell, an abortion provider charged with killing a patient and four babies, trial is scheduled to begin closing arguments Monday, April 29, 2013. (AP Photo/Philadelphia Daily News, Yong Kim, File) MANDATORY CREDIT, NO SALESA201020102010

  • Abortion Deaths Impac_Cala.jpg

    This Wednesday, May 1, 2013 photo shows Dr. Kermit Gosnell's former facility, the Women's Medical Society, in Philadelphia where prosecutors allege he killed five people, including a patient and four viable babies allegedly born alive. Assistant District Attorney Ed Cameron called Gosnell's operation an assembly line where a stream of poor, mostly minority women and teens endured hours of painful labor and delivery because Gosnell did not successfully abort babies in utero. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)A2013

A Philadelphia doctor was found guilty Monday of murdering three babies born alive in an abortion clinic, Fox News confirms. He was acquitted in the fourth baby's death, and found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the overdose death of an adult patient. 

Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 72, was convicted of first-degree murder and could face execution in the deaths of three babies who authorities say were delivered alive and then killed with scissors at his grimy clinic, in a case that became a flashpoint in the nation's debate over abortion.

Gosnell was cleared in the death of a fourth baby, who prosecutors say let out a soft whimper before he snipped its neck.

Gosnell was also found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the drug-overdose death of a patient who had undergone an abortion.

Gosnell appeared hopeful before the verdict and calm afterward; jurors and lawyers on both sides were more emotional.

The jury will return Tuesday to hear evidence on whether Gosnell should get the death penalty.

Jack McMahon, Gosnell's attorney, described the doctor as "disappointed" and "upset" over the verdict but said the defense team respected the jury's ruling. 

"They obviously took their job seriously," McMahon said of the jury. "The verdict should be respected based on their effort." 

Former clinic employees testified that Gosnell routinely performed illegal late-term abortions past Pennsylvania's 24-week limit, that he delivered babies who were still moving, whimpering or breathing, and that he and his assistants "snipped" the newborns' spines, as he referred to it.

"Are you human?" prosecutor Ed Cameron snarled during closing arguments as Gosnell sat calmly at the defense table. "To med these women up and stick knives in the backs of babies?"

The grisly 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.

Authorities 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 of its abortion clinics for 15 years by the time Gosnell's facility was raided and closed down. In the scandal's aftermath, two top state health department officials were fired, and Pennsylvania imposed tougher rules for clinics.

Four former clinic employees have pleaded guilty to murder and four more to other charges. They include Gosnell's wife, Pearl, a cosmetologist who helped perform abortions.

Both sides of the abortion divide seized on the case. Abortion foes said it exposed the true nature of abortion in all its disturbing detail. Abortion rights activists warned that Gosnell's rogue practice foreshadows what poor and desperate young women could face if abortion is driven underground with more restrictive laws.

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.

After prosecutors rested their 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 some 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 soft whimper before Gosnell cut its neck, the jury was told; Gosnell was acquitted in that baby's death.

Gosnell's attorney, Jack McMahon, argued that none of the fetuses was born alive and that any movements were posthumous twitching or spasms.

He 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.

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.

"We know why he was targeted," McMahon said.

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. 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."

Planned Parenthood applauded the verdict on Monday, saying in a statement that "The jury has punished Kermit Gosnell for his appalling crimes." 

"This verdict will ensure that no woman is victimized by Kermit Gosnell ever again," said Planned Parenthood spokesman Eric Ferrero. "This case has made clear that we must have and enforce laws that protect access to safe and legal abortion, and we must reject misguided laws that would limit women's options and force them to seek treatment from criminals like Kermit Gosnell."

And the National Right to Life committee said that while Gosnell had been converted, babies still suffer just as much in late term abortions nationwide.

“Kermit Gosnell was convicted of murder for severing the necks of just-born babies, but those babies would have died just as painfully if he had killed them inside the womb, as most late-term abortionists do," National Right to Life President Carol Tobias said.  "The result is the same for the baby whether it meets its end in a shabby clinic like Gosnell's or a brand new Planned Parenthood facility -- a painful death."

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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