3 Murder Charges Dropped Against Abortion Doctor

It took the prosecution five weeks to present their case against West Philly abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell. It took defense attorney Jack McMahon a couple of hours to knock a big hole in a critical part of their argument.

On the very first day he began to present his defense, McMahon was able to convince the judge to drop three first-degree murder charges against Gosnell.

He argued, fervently, that "there is not one piece...of objective, scientific evidence that anyone was born alive" at Gosnell's clinic.

Prosecutors have argued all along that the babies were viable and that Gosnell and his staff cut them in the back of the neck to kill them.

Before announcing his decision, Judge Jeffery Minehart went into chambers for about 30 minutes. Before he came out, his court clerk cautioned the two dozen or so journalists, bloggers and observers in the courtroom not to overreact when the ruling was read.

Minehart granted the acquittals and broke for lunch.

Journalists raced out of the room to get word to their news outlets, which ran the gamut from national media like CNN, Fox News and The New York Times, to bloggers working for primarily conservative organizations.

During her opening arguments on March 18, lead prosecutor Joanne Pescatore told jurors that for Gosnell, his abortion practice was all about the money. "He had high volume and maximum profit," she said.

"This is not a case about abortion; this is a case about murder."

Pescatore put 36 witnesses on the stand, including former workers who testified that they saw babies breath, watched limbs move and listened to cries and whines.

In January of 2011, Gosnell was charged with eight counts of murder. Seven first-degree murder charges were for accusations that he killed seven newborns. The third-degree murder charge is for the 2009 death of Karnamaya Mongar. Prosecutors say the 41-year-old Bhutanese refugee received lethal doses of sedatives and painkillers at the clinic while awaiting an abortion.

Gosnell, 72, still faces five remaining murder charges and the possibility of the death penalty if convicted of any of the first-degree cases.

He is also charged with violating Pennsylvania abortion law by performing abortions after 24 weeks, operating a corrupt organization and other crimes.

Former staffer Eileen O'Neill is also on trial. The 56-year-old Phoenixville woman is charged with practicing medicine without a license, and taking part in a corrupt organization. Six of the nine theft by deception charges she faced were dropped today as well because the prosecution didn't present any witnesses to support those charges.

A gag order remains in place for the trial, but Jack McMahon did have a few brief comments as the court recessed for lunch.

“We still have a long way to go,” McMahon said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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