Abortion Doc Found Guilty on Three Counts of First-Degree Murder

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
May 13 2013 3:28 PM

Abortion Provider Kermit Gosnell Found Guilty on Three Counts of First-Degree Murder

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Anti-abortion activists march past the U.S. Capitol during the annual March for Life on Jan. 25, 2013 in Washington, D.C.

Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

A Pennsylvania jury this afternoon found longtime abortion provider Kermit Gosnell guilty of three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of what prosecutors said were babies born alive and then killed with scissors at his clinic in West Philadelphia. He was found not guilty on a fourth charge of first-degree murder involving a fourth newborn that prosecutors had alleged suffered the same fate.

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Gosnell was also found guilty of third-degree murder in the death of 41-year-old Karnamaya Mongar, who died from a drug overdose during a second-term abortion performed at the since-shuttered Women's Medical Society. The first-degree murder convictions bring with them the possibility of the death penalty for the 72-year-old Gosnell, something that the prosecution has suggested they will seek.

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Gosnell, who is not a board-certified obstetrician or gynecologist, was also found guilty of a long list of related violations of Pennsylvania's abortion laws, including performing the procedure after 24 or more weeks of pregnancy.

He originally faced seven first-degree murder charges, but the judge had previously dismissed three of those charges.

News that a verdict had been reached came only hours after the jury had said that—after more 10 days of deliberations—it was deadlocked on two of 258 counts that Gosnell faced in connection with his clinic where he performed abortions. It was not clear which of those counts had caused the temporary stalemate.

Gosnell's defense team had argued that Gosnell used an abortion drug that was administered while the fetuses were still in the womb, and that Mongar died of complications. A medical examiner was unable to say conclusively whether any of the babies had been alive after delivery, the issue at the heart of the trial. Ultimately, the jury of seven women and five men sided overwhelmingly with the prosecution.

The Associated Press has a helpful guide to the grisly case here. While Gosnell denied all accusations of wrongdoing, prosecutors painted a very different picture during their five weeks of arguments. They estimated that Gosnell had ended hundreds of pregnancies by inducing labor and then cutting the newborns' spinal cords. (Prosecutors said they couldn't file more murder charges, however, because Gosnell had destroyed many of the files.)

This post has been updated with additional information.

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