Gosnell attorney: Stop this 'prosecutorial lynching'
March 18, 2013By Carolyn Beeler, @carolynbeeler
More than two years after a grand jury report dubbed his West Philadelphia clinic a "house of horrors," counsel for Dr. Kermit Gosnell was finally able to present his side of the story Monday.
In opening arguments in Gosnell's murder trial, defense attorney Jack McMahon called the case "elitist" and "racist," and coming from prosecutors trying to "put Mayo clinic standards into a West Philadelphia clinic."
"This man is being taken because of who he is and where he works," the defense attorney said.
McMahon painted a picture of Gosnell as a family man dedicated to his community, a man who turned down more lucrative positions in Washington, D.C., and New York after medical school to stay in West Philadelphia and serve his community. Women kept being referred to and coming to his clinic because they could get what they needed at the right price, McMahon said.
Despite what's alleged in the grand jury report, the defense argued no babies were born alive and then killed at the Lancaster Avenue clinic, as the prosecution alleges, but were terminated in utero prior delivery. And, the defense argued, the death of 41-year old Bhutanese refugee Karnamaya Mongar was due to pre-existing health complications she did not report and medication she took, on her own, prior to her procedure. McMahon argued over-anesthetization by Gosnell or clinic staff was not what killed her.
Gosnell is charged with seven counts of first-degree murder involving the deaths of infants born alive, and one count of third-degree murder for Mongar.
Jack McMahon, a well-known Philadelphia defense attorney, closed his red-faced and impassioned arguments by urging the jury to end this "prosecutorial lynching of Dr. Kermit Gosnell."
Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore painted a much different picture, of a man who took advantage of "pathetic, exploited" workers and patients alike.
Gosnell, she alleged, trained young and undereducated workers on how to take ultrasounds so babies would appear younger, doctored charts on third-trimester pregnancies, and routinely killed babies that were delivered alive.
"This is not a case about abortion," Pescatore said. "This is about murder."
Pescatore warned the jury of the graphic nature of evidence they would see and hear during the trial, including testimony from former clinic workers who have already pleaded guilty to lesser charges, and a maintenance man whose job it was to clean up biohazardous material after abortions.
"It's coming at you, so get ready," she said.
Gosnell appeared calm, taking notes on a legal pad and frequently consulting with his lawyer during opening arguments.
Standing trial with Gosnell is clinic employee Eileen O'Neill, the only worker out of nine charged who has not pleaded guilty.
Twelve jurors and five alternates were seated for the trial, which is expected to last six to eight weeks.
Gosnell faces the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder in the infant deaths.