The Herald Bulletin

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April 30, 2013

Pennsylvania abortion doctor's murder trial goes to jury

PHILADELPHIA — A Philadelphia jury began weighing murder charges Tuesday against a doctor charged with killing five people, including four viable babies allegedly born alive in what authorities describe as illegal, late-term abortions routinely performed at his clinic.

Kermit Gosnell, 72, faces the death penalty if convicted of killing babies born alive. A string of former clinic employees testified over the past two months, telling jurors that Gosnell cut live babies in the back of the neck to ensure they were dead.

Four of them have pleaded guilty to murder charges for the babies they say they killed, or for helping sedate a 41-year-old patient who died of an overdose. They accused Gosnell of killing two of the four babies, but he could be convicted in all four deaths if the jury deems him an accomplice or conspirator.

"He has to share the specific intent to kill," Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Minehart explained as he instructed jurors, who began deliberating for about two hours Tuesday.

Under Pennsylvania law, Minehart explained to jurors, for babies to be born alive, they must be expelled or removed from the mother and show one of the following signs of life: brain activity, breathing, the definitive movement of a muscle or the pulsing of the umbilical cord.

Gosnell is also charged in the patient's 2009 death. By that point, state officials had not inspected Gosnell's clinic since the early 1990s, prosecutors said.

The defense argues that Gosnell helped desperate women who had no medical care and nowhere else to turn.

"He provided those desperate young girls with relief. He gave them a solution to their problems," defense lawyer Jack McMahon said in closing arguments Monday.

Gosnell faces 258 counts in all, including four first-degree murder counts, which could bring the death penalty.

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