Court: Philly Doctor Guilty Of Murder In Late-Term Abortions

A Philadelphia doctor who performed abortions could face the death penalty now that he's been convicted in the deaths of three babies who authorities say were delivered alive and then killed. Dr. Kermit Gosnell was also found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the drug-overdose death of a patient who had undergone an abortion.

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A Philadelphia doctor who performed late-term abortions is now facing multiple murder convictions and a possible death sentence. A jury found Kermit Gosnell guilty on three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of three babies that prosecutors said were delivered alive and then killed. Gosnell was also found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a female patient. He was acquitted on one count of murder in a fourth abortion.

In a moment, we'll get reaction from both sides in the abortion debate. Let's begin our coverage with NPR's Jeff Brady in Philadelphia.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: Throughout the nearly two-month trial, prosecutors portrayed Kermit Gosnell's West Philadelphia clinic as a squalid facility, where illegal late-term abortions were performed, and in some cases, babies were delivered alive and then killed. The defense denied the allegations and countered that Gosnell served a poor and mostly minority population with services they couldn't afford elsewhere.

After 10 days deliberating, the jury sided primarily with the prosecution. The 72-year-old Gosnell remains in custody. His attorney, Jack McMahon, talked with reporters outside the courthouse.

JACK MCMAHON: As any intelligent human being would be at this point in time, he's disappointed and he's upset. I mean, we aired out our position on this over a long trial. We had a fair trial. We got to put out our position, and the jury spoke.

BRADY: Now the question is whether Gosnell will receive the death penalty. McMahon says prosecutors will have to prove there were aggravated circumstances. He was asked whether that will be easy or difficult for the prosecution.

MCMAHON: Multiple murders is an aggravating circumstance. So, obviously, that gives them an aggravating circumstance to argue at a penalty phase.

BRADY: Asked whether Gosnell might agree to forgo appealing the case in return for prosecutors dropping the death penalty, McMahon answered...

MCMAHON: That's always an issue. I mean, I can't comment on that right now. But sometimes that happens. I'm not saying it'll happen here, but that's always a possibility.

BRADY: Prosecutors did not answer questions after the verdicts were read. In addition to the murder charges, the jury found Gosnell guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a patient. Karnamaya Mongar was to receive an abortion at Gosnell's clinic. She died of a medication overdose. Among dozens of other charges, the jury verdict was mixed. Gosnell faced 226 counts of violating Pennsylvania's 24-hour waiting period for abortions. He was found guilty in all but 16 of those cases.

Gosnell also was found guilty of infanticide and racketeering. A former employee, Eileen O'Neill, was convicted of taking part in a corrupt organization and illegally billing for services as a licensed doctor. Outside Gosnell's former clinic, there are boards on some windows and a no-trespassing sign posted by the health department.

Monday evening, a few people walking by had heard about the jury's decision in the case.

JANET BURMAN: My name is Janet Burman, and I live in Philadelphia. I was very pleased with it.

BRADY: And why is that?

BURMAN: Well, because it was a life that was taken. But I mean, I don't think he deserves the death penalty, but - because that's not going to save anything, but still, he's found guilty, and I'm pleased with that.

BRADY: College sophomore Taijsha Bailey says she hopes Gosnell does get the death penalty. She's disappointed he wasn't found guilty of all the charges, but she says this result is better than what could've been.

TAIJSHA BAILEY: Better than him walking free. I mean, they can't charge him for everything, but it would've been nice if they could have. But at least he was found guilty of first-degree murder on some of them.

BRADY: The sentencing phase of the trial is scheduled to begin a week from today. Jeff Brady, NPR News, Philadelphia.

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