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Abortion Doctor Found Guilty Of Murder, Manslaughter


In Philadelphia, a jury has found a doctor guilty of murder at a clinic where he performed abortions. Dr. Kermit Gosnell was convicted of killing three babies, and acquitted in the death of a fourth. He was also found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, in the death of a patient. NPR's Jeff Brady was in the courtroom today and joins us now. And Jeff, Gosnell faced hundreds of counts in this trial. Help us understand this conviction.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: Yeah. There were dozens of counts filed against Kermit Gosnell. He had - I had a list of the charges. It was 14 pages long. At the start of the trial, there were even more charges, but some of them were thrown out as this nearly two-month trial progressed. In the end, the jury found Gosnell guilty of murder in the first degree for three babies that prosecutor say were born alive. They found that he was - the jury found that he was not guilty in - of murder in the first degree, in a fourth case.

Another issue the jury decided involved a woman who was a patient of Dr. Gosnell, Karnamaya Mongar. She came to Gosnell for an abortion, and she died of an overdose. She was given too much medication. The jury could have found him guilty of murder in the third degree, but instead found Gosnell guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

And on top of these very serious convictions, there were dozens of other charges, some of them relating to Pennsylvania's law that requires a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion. There were 226 counts on that issue. The jury found him guilty on all but 16 of those counts.

CORNISH: And over the course of this trial, we've heard about conditions at the clinic - which were described as horrifying.

BRADY: Oh, really - the prosecutors laid out in very gruesome detail, the conditions at the clinic; very unsanitary, squalid conditions. Investigators say that when they arrived, there was blood on the floor and a stench of urine. There was a flea-infested cat wandering through the facility.Dr. Gosnell's defense, at one point, said his client was being held to Mayo Clinic standards for a clinic that served mostly a poor and minority population.

Here in Pennsylvania, those conditions were used to - as a motivation to strengthen requirements on abortion clinics in the state. Now, there are regular inspections here, and they're held to - those clinics are held to the same standards as outpatient surgery centers. I think it's important to point out, abortion rights supporters are quick to say that Dr. Gosnell was operating well outside of the bounds of what typical abortion clinics consider acceptable.

CORNISH: And you talk about abortion rights supporters. This case has really figured into the national abortion debate. Talk about that, and why.

BRADY: Yeah. I think a lot of it has to do with just the really - terribly gruesome nature of some of the evidence that was presented in this case. Some of what the prosecution described was just horrible - spinal cords being snipped. And that evidence clearly convinced this jury that Gosnell was guilty of first-degree murder, at least in three of the cases.

And that means that the jury was convinced that in this clinic, babies were born alive and then were killed. That alone would be enough, of course, to stoke controversy. But then you add on top of that the history of the abortion issue in this country. And here at the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia, there were abortion opponents out on the street, through parts of the trial. It really did motivate people to express their views on the larger issue.

CORNISH: And Jeff, just a few seconds left here. What kind of sentence is Kermit Gosnell likely to face?

BRADY: He could face the death penalty. His attorney, Jack McMahon, talked with reporters after the verdicts were read; and he said for that to happen, there would have to be aggravating circumstances. And his own attorney said being convicted of multiple murders meets that legal qualification. We're going to have the penalty phase of this trial starting a week from tomorrow, here in Philadelphia.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Jeff Brady. Jeff, thank you.

BRADY: Thank you, Audie.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jeff Brady is a National Desk Correspondent based in Philadelphia, where he covers energy issues and climate change. Brady helped establish NPR's environment and energy collaborative which brings together NPR and Member station reporters from across the country to cover the big stories involving the natural world.
Audie Cornish
Over two decades of journalism, Audie Cornish has become a recognized and trusted voice on the airwaves as co-host of NPR's flagship news program, All Things Considered.

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