Pa. abortion doc co-defendant argues case unproven
A lawyer for the co-defendant of a Philadelphia abortion doctor says prosecutors didn’t prove their case against her.
Fifty-six-year-old Eileen O’Neill of Phoenixville is charged with theft. She is on trial with Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who is charged with killing four babies allegedly born alive and in the overdose death of a 41-year-old patient.
O’Neill isn’t licensed to practice medicine, but defense attorney James Berardinelli told the jury in closing arguments Monday that prosecutors failed to prove that O’Neill billed as a licensed doctor.
He says she consulted with Gosnell for any patient she saw and she mostly treated geriatric patients and wasn’t involved in surgical abortions.
Prosecution witnesses say they got prescriptions from O’Neill pre-signed by Gosnell and never knew she wasn’t licensed.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
Philadelphia prosecutors predicted two years ago that the indictment of an abortion provider charged with killing babies would be exploited by both sides of the nation’s polarized abortion debate.
The seven-week murder trial, which moves to closing arguments Monday, has proved them right.
Abortion foes have accused the media of under-publicizing the trial out of fear it would weaken public support for abortion rights. Abortion-rights advocates have said the grim testimony points to the need for the procedure to be accessible, safe and legal.
“The case is not about that controversy; it is about disregard of the law and disdain for the lives and health of mothers and infants,” prosecutors wrote in the 2011 grand jury report. “We find common ground in exposing what happened here.”
They accuse 72-year-old Kermit Gosnell of operating a clinic where desperate women sought late-term abortions they could not get elsewhere. And he got rich doing so, they said, making millions over a 30-year career.
Prosecutors say Gosnell killed viable babies born alive after putting a steady stream of often low-income, minority women through labor and delivery.
Former employees have testified that Gosnell taught them to “snip” babies’ necks after they were delivered to “ensure fetal demise.”
“Why would you cut a baby in the back of the neck unless you were killing them?” Assistant District Attorney Ed Cameron argued last week, as he asked a judge to send all seven first-degree murder charges to the jury.
Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Minehart, though, threw out three of those counts for lack of evidence they were viable, born alive and then killed.
Gosnell is also charged in the overdose death of a patient, 41-year-old refugee Karnamaya Mongar, of Woodbridge, Va.
The jury must now weigh the five murder counts, along with lesser charges that include racketeering, performing illegal abortions after 24 weeks, failing to observe the 24-hour waiting period and endangering a child’s welfare for employing a 15-year-old in the procedure area.
Defense lawyer Jack McMahon has argued that there were no live births at the clinic, and he found some support from a prosecution witness, Philadelphia’s top medical examiner. Dr. Sam Gulino, who examined 47 aborted fetuses stored in freezers at the clinic, said he could not definitively say if any had taken a breath because the lung tissue had deteriorated.
The prosecution’s other evidence to support the live birth argument comes from former employees, who testified that they saw aborted babies move, breathe or even cry. McMahon challenged them on cross-examination, questioning whether they had instead seen post-mortem spasms.
“You have to have definite, voluntary movement,” McMahon argued.
The jury has seen a graphic photograph of some of the aborted babies and a worker testified that Gosnell joked that one was so big “it could walk to the bus.”
Lynda Williams, Adrianne Moton and Sherry West, all untrained clinic workers, and unlicensed doctor Stephen Massof have each pleaded guilty to third-degree murder charges and testified against Gosnell. And four others have pleaded guilty to lesser charges, including Gosnell’s wife, Pearl.
Gosnell did not testify, but could take the stand in the penalty phase if he is convicted of first-degree murder. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Prosecutors say Gosnell is a misogynist for the way he treated female patients while the inner-city doctor described himself as an altruist in a 2010 interview with the Philadelphia Daily News.
“I wanted to be an effective, positive force in the minority community,” Gosnell said.
Pa. abortion doc co-defendant argues case unproven
- National News
VIDEO: Mother, children rescued from van in ocean
Witnesses in Daytona Beach watched as a woman drove her van with three children into the ocean. Their dramatic rescue was captured on video.
Facebook cracking down on illegal gun sales planned on site
Facebook is cracking down on illegal gun sales planned through its website, seeking to prevent criminal activity and setting a precedent other social- media sites could follow.
VIDEO: New Jersey teen sues parents for tuition
A New Jersey teenager is suing her parents for tuition after saying they abandoned her when she turned 18.
REGIONAL: Cartels send ice from super labs to Mississippi
An underworld that traffics meth has found its way to South Mississippi, with Mexican drug cartels sending small groups to handle the delivery of meth in its most potent form.
In minimum wage debate, Wal-Mart poised for a Ford moment
One hundred years later, U.S. companies including Gap and Wal-Mart Stores are caught up in the debate over raising pay - this time an increase in the federal minimum wage. President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats want to raise it to $10.10 an hour from $7.25, saying doing so will bolster the economy and reduce income inequality.
Homeland Security sets sights on national database of license plates
The Department of Homeland Security wants a private company to create a national license plate tracking system that would give the agency access to vast amounts of information from commercial and law enforcement license plate readers, according to a government proposal that does not specify what privacy safeguards would be put in place.
Calif. water politics complicate Brown's decisions
As California struggles to cope with its historic drought, Gov. Jerry Brown is facing increasing pressure to tackle longstanding problems in the state's water storage and delivery systems at a time when the politics of the issue have never been more tangled.
Teen mom says she's a mass murderer
At 13, Miranda Barbour says she reluctantly helped kill her first victim in Alaska, but then went on a spree of slayings in California, Texas, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Local, state and federal authorities are investigating her claim made in a jailhouse interview with the Sunbury, Pa., Daily Item.
Messy storm makes its way across the South leaving thousands without power
Across the South, winter-weary residents woke up Wednesday to a region encased in ice, snow and freezing rain, with forecasters warning that the worst of the potentially “catastrophic” storm is yet to come.
FACT CHECK: Anti-Obamacare chorus is off key
EDITOR'S NOTE: An occasional look at political claims that take shortcuts with the facts or don't tell the full story
- More National News Headlines
- VIDEO: Mother, children rescued from van in ocean