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Jurors in Philadelphia abortion doctor trial hear final arguments

Posted at 9:35 PM, Apr 29, 2013

PHILADELPHIA (CNN) — The defense attorney for a Philadelphia abortion doctor charged with murder in the deaths of four babies on Monday attacked prosecutors’ evidence that live births took place at Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s clinic as he presented closing arguments in the case.

Gosnell, 72, is accused of killing babies with scissors that were used to cut their spinal cords. Authorities allege that some of the infants were born viable and alive during the sixth, seventh and eighth months of pregnancy.

Although he did not call a single witness to the stand, Gosnell’s defense attorney, Jack McMahon, gave an impassioned, 2 1/2-hour closing argument to the jury refuting the prosecution’s evidence and once again claiming that none of the infants was killed; rather, he said, they were already dead as a result of Gosnell administering the drug Digoxin, which can cause abortion.

McMahon, stalking the jury box, accused prosecutors of “the most extraordinary hype and exaggeration in the history of the criminal justice system,” even adding that they are “elitist” and “racist.”

Gosnell, who is African-American, has been accused by authorities of preying on low-income, minority women. McMahon argued that Gosnell offered people who were poor and without health insurance access to health care.

“These are desperate, young girls who were in trouble. But he provided these desperate young girls with relief,” McMahon said.

Flipping through a series of photos of the Women’s Medical Clinic, McMahon argued that the images rebuffed their “House of Horrors” claim.

“This isn’t a perfect place by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s not what they say it is,” McMahon bellowed. “Are you going to believe Mr. Cameron or your lying eyes.”

McMahon then asked the jury to find courage and “be fair,” he said.

“Be true to yourself,” he said, “Go by what the evidence is, not what everyone wants it to be.”

Before Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Edward Cameron delivered his closing arguments, an examination chair with stirrups, a sonogram machine and other medical devices that were on permanent display in the center of the courtroom during the trial were returned to their place facing the jury box. District Attorney Seth Williams, flanked by a security detail, entered the packed courtroom and observed from the back of the room.

“This case is not about us,” Cameron said. “It’s about Karnamaya Mongar, and those four babies that are dead, and getting them justice.”

Cameron then summarized testimony from almost all 54 witnesses who took the stand during the seven-week trial. As he read through key facets of testimony, four enlarged photos of three fetuses, and a photo of Mongar and her husband, faced the jury before being placed on several monitors throughout the courtroom.

At one point Cameron turned to Gosnell, who wrote notes incessantly on a notepad, and yelled.

“Are you human?” he asked, hands on his hips while Gosnell smirked back at him. “It’s time for us to extinguish the fire he created.”

Gosnell originally faced eight counts of murder in the deaths of seven babies and Mongar, 41, who died of an anesthetic overdose during a second-trimester abortion. He is also charged with conspiracy, abortion at 24 or more weeks of pregnancy, theft, corruption of minors, solicitation and other related offenses.

Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey P. Minehart threw out three of the seven first-degree murder charges against Gosnell last week. He has pleaded not guilty.

The judge also tossed all five abuse of corpse charges for storing the feet of aborted fetuses in plastic containers. Minehart also dismissed one count of infanticide, the intentional killing of an infant.

Gosnell is also accused of reusing unsanitary instruments; performing procedures in filthy rooms, including some having litter boxes and animals present during operations; and allowing unlicensed employees — including a teenage high school student — to perform operations and administer anesthesia.

Nine others who worked in the west Philadelphia medical office, including Gosnell’s wife and sister-in-law, also were charged. Eight have pleaded guilty.

Also on trial is co-defendant Eileen O’Neill, 56, a medical school graduate who worked as a doctor at the Women’s Medical Society. O’Neill, who did not have a medical license, is not charged with performing abortions but with participating in the operation of a “corrupt organization” and “theft by deception” for operating without a doctor’s license.

“She was pretending to be a doctor and doesn’t deserve the title,” Cameron said, turning to O’Neill who looked down at her notepad and scribbled.

Meanwhile, a gag order preventing attorneys or the jury from speaking to the media remains in place.

If he is found guilty, Gosnell, who is not a board-certified obstetrician or gynecologist, could be sentenced to death.

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