Gosnell lawyer says clinic conditions exaggerated

Posted: April 04, 2013

The lawyer for West Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell accused a police crime scene officer of selecting evidence and photos to buttress the prosecution claim that Gosnell's clinic was filthy and unsanitary.

"That's a new ultrasound," said Jack McMahon, referring to a photo of a clinic procedure room taken by Officer John Taggart. "So you seized the older one and left the new one? Correct?"

"Correct," replied Taggart in a matter-of-fact tone.

Taggart, a veteran of almost 22 years with the police department, and other members of the Crime Scene Unit, retrieved equipment from the clinic and arranged it in the well of the courtroom where Gosnell's murder trial is being held.

Assistant District Attorneys Edward Cameron and Joanne Pescatore have regularly elicited comments from witnesses about the age and condition of the equipment and the cleanliness of Gosnell's clinic.

McMahon, however, argued that Taggart could have easily taken newer, better-looking equipment. Noting a worn, gray recliner in the courtroom, McMahon asked why Taggart did not select any of the newer chairs in the patient recovery room.

"Because it was closest to the door," replied Taggart.

McMahon also questioned Taggart about why did not take samples of blood stains purportedly found around the clinic.

Taggart said it wasn't necessary because, unlike most crime scenes, he did not have a victim or suspect to compare the samples to.

In rebuttal questioning, Cameron offered to send Taggart back to the clinic to retrieve anything McMahon wants and ordered Taggart to test a red stain under the arm of the recliner in the courtroom "if Mr. McMahon wants."

"It's not up to me to ask," said McMahon, who added that it was up to the District Attorney's office to prove its case.

Taggart spent Tuesday afternoon and this morning on the witness stand identifying scores of more than 300 photos he took on June 23, 2010 at Gosnell's Women's Medical Society at 3801 Lancaster Avenue.

The clinic had been closed since Feb. 18, 2010 after a state-federal task force conducted a raid as part of a drug investigation. By June, Taggart said, a county investigating grand jury had begun looking at Gosnell's abortion practice and he was sent to begun documenting the building.

Taggart also described photos he took on Sept. 13, 2010 of the desiccated, withered remains of five aborted fetuses. The remains were found in a freezer at Gosnell's clinic and taken to the Philadelphia Medical Examiner's office to be thawed and examined.

Gosnell is charged with seven counts of first-degree murder in the killing of seven infants born alive and viable during illegal late-term abortions. He faces a possible death penalty if found guilty.

He is also charged with third-degree murder in the Nov. 19, 2009 death of a Virginia woman, Karnamaya Mongar, 41, during an abortion. Prosecutors allege that Mongar was administered too much anesthesia by Gosnell's untrained staff.

McMahon has argued that none of the seven infants was born alive. He has maintained the Mongar did not tell Gosnell of respiratory problems that might have made her vulnerable to anesthesia.

Also on trial is Eileen O'Neill, 56, of Phoenixville, a medical school graduate who worked as a doctor at Gosnell's clinic though she did not have a medical license.

O'Neill is not charged with performing abortions but


with participating in the operation of a "corrupt organization."

Contact Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985, jslobodzian@phillynews.com, or @joeslobo on Twitter.

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