Twelve members of a jury had to weigh two versions of reality as the capital murder trial of Kermit Gosnell drew to a close. On April 30 the jury began deliberations to decide whether Gosnell had been a heartless killer or—as defense attorney Jack McMahon insisted—the victim of “the most extraordinary hype and exaggeration in the history of the justice system.”
McMahon had said prosecutors were racist and elitist for aggressively pursuing his African-American client. He claimed no babies had been born alive at Gosnell’s Philadelphia abortion center, and that the portrayal of the facility as a filthy “house of horrors” was part of a “political press fabrication.”
Prosecutor Ed Cameron, on the other hand, told the jury Gosnell ran his abortion business like an “assembly line,” maximizing profits at the expense of women’s safety. Turning to Gosnell, he asked, “Are you human? To med these women up and stick knives in the backs of babies?”
Cameron’s team produced 546 exhibits of evidence and over 50 witnesses testifying Gosnell ran a shoddy and lawless facility. (McMahon, who spent most of his time criticizing prosecution testimony, rested his defense without calling a single witness.)
In deciding a case sure to remain embedded in the American psyche thanks to its revolting details, the jury will determine whether Gosnell is guilty of illegal late-term abortions, racketeering, and murder: The prosecution charged the abortionist with third-degree murder in the death of a 41-year-old patient by an overdose of painkiller, and seven counts of first-degree murder involving infants Gosnell and his staff allegedly delivered live before severing their spinal cords with scissors. The searing details already are leading to further investigation into the gruesome business of late-term abortions.
Before closing arguments, Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Minehart threw out three of the first-degree murder charges, apparently doubting the supporting testimony. Gosnell could still face the death penalty if convicted of the remaining four counts.