US & Canada

Kermit Gosnell case: Jury hears closing arguments

Dr Kermit Gosnell is seen during an interview with the Philadelphia Daily News at his attorney's office in Philadelphia 8 March 2010 photo
Image caption Officials said they found about $250,000 (£263,000) in cash at Dr Gosnell's home after a raid of his clinic

A Pennsylvania jury has heard closing arguments in the trial of an abortion clinic doctor accused of killing four babies and an adult patient.

Prosecutors allege Dr Kermit Gosnell killed babies born alive after late-term abortions by snipping their spines at the neck with scissors.

His defence lawyer said it was "ridiculous" to say the foetuses had survived in utero injections of a heart-stopping drug.

Jury deliberations began on Tuesday.

Dr Gosnell faces the death penalty or life in prison if convicted.

Several former clinic employees have pleaded guilty to murder and testified against Dr Gosnell and an unlicensed doctor, Eileen O'Neill.

The defence has separately argued that Dr Gosnell is not responsible for the overdose death of 41-year-old Karnamaya Mongar, a refugee from Nepal, saying that was caused by medical complications.

'Are you human?'

During closing arguments in Philadelphia on Monday, prosecutor Ed Cameron asked jurors to deliver justice on behalf of Dr Gosnell's alleged victims.

"Are you human?" Mr Cameron asked Dr Gosnell, who sat calmly during the proceedings. "To med these women up and stick knives in the backs of babies?"

Image caption Karnamaya Mongar (left) died of a sedative overdose at the clinic

Calling the clinic an "assembly line with no regard" for patients, the prosecutor argued Dr Gosnell was grossly incompetent as an abortion provider and had sought to get rich by employing unqualified staff and keeping a dirty, out-of-date clinic.

He alleged that two mentally unstable medical assistants and a teenager were on duty delivering anaesthesia the night Mongar came in.

"If that doesn't tell you right away what kind of practice Dr Gosnell ran, nothing will,'' Mr Cameron said.

Defence lawyer Jack McMahon told jurors on Monday prosecutors had manipulated former employees of the clinic into testifying, while creating "the most extraordinary hype and exaggeration in the history of the justice system".

Mr McMahon acknowledged jurors had seen horrifying images during the trial, but argued that prosecutors did not have definitive proof the foetuses were viable and alive.

"Abortion, as is any surgical procedure, isn't pretty," he said. "It's bloody. It's real. But you have to transcend that."

'La-la land'

He also called prosecutors "elitist" and "racist" for pursuing Dr Gosnell, who is black and served mostly poor minority women.

"We know why he was targeted,'' Mr McMahon said. "If you don't see that reality... you're living in some sort of la-la land."

During the trial, Judge Jeffrey Minehart threw out three other murder charges involving aborted foetuses, citing insufficient evidence that they were born alive and then killed.

Prosecutors have argued Dr Gosnell would not have cut the foetuses' spines unless he feared they had survived abortion.

Former staff have testified they saw aborted foetuses move after the procedure on at least two occasions, only to have Dr Gosnell explain the movements as an involuntary response.

In one case, Ashley Baldwin, a former employee said, "the chest was moving".

Abortions in Pennsylvania are illegal if not performed by a licensed doctor and if done past the 24th week of pregnancy when the mother's life is not in danger.

According to a grand jury report, records of the length of the pregnancies at the time of the abortions were falsified by non-medical staff. Other records were lost entirely.

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