It's now up to Gosnell jurors

Jack McMahon, the lawyer for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, leaves the courthouse after closing arguments.
Jack McMahon, the lawyer for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, leaves the courthouse after closing arguments. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer)
Posted: May 02, 2013

The Philadelphia jury considering the murder case against abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell begins its first full day of deliberations Wednesday after lengthy legal instructions from the judge and several hours of review.

The Common Pleas Court jury of seven women and five men deliberated about three hours Tuesday after Judge Jeffrey P. Minehart gave two hours of instructions in the law involving murder, abortion, theft, and racketeering.

"You've heard the case," Minehart told the jurors. "You are the finders of fact. You have to decide what happened here at 3800 Lancaster Ave."

But to do that, the jurors will have to reach unanimous verdicts based on the testimony of more than 60 prosecution and defense witnesses, and hundreds of exhibits introduced during six weeks of trial.

After Minehart completed his jury instructions, the judge dismissed four alternate jurors who sat through the trial in case one of the 12 had to be excused from the trial.

The jurors returned to court only once after beginning deliberations, to get additional instructions from the judge on several charges and to take with them a floor-to-ceiling poster with the photos and names of Gosnell and others charged or called to testify in the case.

There is no way of determining how long the jury might be out - the jurors set their own work schedule now - but their task is formidable.

They must work through a verdict sheet more than 30 pages long asking for their unanimous decisions on four counts of first-degree murder, one count of third-degree murder, 24 counts of performing abortions past Pennsylvania's 24-week gestational age, 227 counts of performing abortions without giving the woman the mandated 24-hour waiting period, and other counts involving racketeering and operating a corrupt organization.

Those charges all involve Gosnell, 72, owner and operator of the Women's Medical Society clinic at 3801 Lancaster Ave.

The jury also has to weigh six counts of theft by deception and participating in a corrupt organization against Eileen O'Neill, 56, of Phoenixville, the unlicensed doctor who worked in the family practice section of Gosnell's clinic.

Gosnell, a fixture of community medicine in West Philadelphia for more than 30 years, could face the death penalty if the jury finds him guilty of any of the first-degree murder charges. Those counts involve four illegal late-term abortions in which prosecutors say babies born alive were killed by Gosnell, who "snipped" their spines with scissors.

If Gosnell is found guilty of first-degree murder, the jury would begin hearing evidence to decide if he should be sentenced to death or life in prison without the chance of parole.

Gosnell is also charged with third-degree murder in the Nov. 19, 2009, death of Karnamaya Mongar, 41, of Virginia. Prosecutors allege that Mongar died during an abortion when Gosnell's untrained staff overdosed her on Demerol, a painkiller he used as anesthesia.

Gosnell's attorney Jack McMahon argued that Mongar died through an unpredictable drug interaction - an accident, not homicide.


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

 

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