U.S. - A judge and jury in Philadelphia began hearing testimony in the case of Dr. Kermit Gosnell more than a month ago. Gosnell is being tried on eight counts of murder. Gosnell's defense is scheduled to begin this week, and observers are waiting to see if he will testify.
The charges include eight counts of murder. Seven of them are first-degree murder and could bring the death penalty. Those are the charges involving the babies who were allegedly born alive. The eighth murder count is a third-degree murder count involving the overdose death of the 41-year-old patient, Karnamaya Mongar.
This all stemmed from investigators coming into the clinic a few years ago. They were actually looking for something else, responding to a tip about drug, his prescribing of prescription drugs. He was apparently one of the more high-volume prescribers in the state of Pennsylvania. And the raid was intended to examine that. Allegedly, he was freely writing prescriptions for addicts and drug dealers, etc.
But the FBI and other federal and state authorities stumbled upon abortions which were going on that evening. They were expecting to arrive at the clinic in the evening and find that -- they were hoping that they wouldn't encounter the abortion going on. They didn't want to interrupt that.
But, in fact, Gosnell tended to perform the surgeries that night after the patients had been there during the day. And they found, they said, very unsanitary, filthy conditions, somewhat macabre findings, including fetuses that were stored in the freezer. That was perhaps because he was in a billing dispute with his medical disposal company, and they were not being picked up.
So that actually provided evidence for prosecutors. They could perform autopsies and learn whether or not they believed the babies were late-term and conduct other investigation on the findings in the clinic.
Much of the prosecution testimony come from former employees, eight of whom have pleaded guilty in the case. Three of them indeed pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and await sentencing. They will get credit for their cooperation.
They have testified to a number of things, including about themselves that they were often unlicensed or untrained. Some of the women who were doing I.V. drug administration, as well always ultrasounds and indeed assisting with abortions, had merely a few months of training to be medical assistants.
Another young woman was a 15-year-old teenager when she began working there through some sort of a school externship program. And she too came to work in the procedure room. There were two unlicensed doctors who were working there, one who dealt mainly with non-abortion patients, often geriatric patients who were there just for basic medical care.
Some of the testimony has been about babies being born alive, and then being put to death there in the delivery room.
The jury has heard quite graphic testimony, in addition to some photographs that employees took. There also are the investigative photographs of the clinic and some of the fetuses that were found that night.
The defense lawyer for Dr. Gosnell, Jack McMahon, has argued through his questioning and through his opening statements that there were no live births at the clinic, in his view of the case. He says that staff members who saw babies or thought they saw babies move were merely witnessing some involuntary responses amid the death process.
The defense also plans to bring character witnesses.
It not yet clear whether Dr. Gosnell will testify, though he did do an interview while he was under investigation.