The Common Good

Kermitt Gosnell Spared the Death Penalty

A Philadelphia abortion doctor convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of three babies will not face the death penalty.

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Dr. Kermit Gosnell will serve life in prison without parole. He escaped the possibility of execution by agreeing Tuesday to waive his right to appeal his conviction of first-degree murder in the deaths of three babies. A jury on Monday found they were delivered alive and killed by snipping their spinal cords with surgical scissors.

During his trial, former employees of Gosnell’s rundown west Philadelphia clinic testified that he performed or tried to perform abortions beyond Pennsylvania’s 24-week gestation limit. Some procedures resulted in the birth of babies who appeared to be moving, breathing, and in one case, according to former employee Ashley Baldwin, “screeching.”

In his summation before more than a week of jury deliberation, Assistant District Attorney Edward Cameron said Gosnell didn’t care about his patients or their babies and “adopted a Henry Ford way of doing business: He created an assembly line. … My dog was treated better than he treated these babies and women.”

“Are you human?” Cameron asked the defendant. “He’s the one case that doesn’t deserve to be called human,” he told jurors.

Prosecutors agreed to two life sentences without parole. Gosnell will be sentenced Wednesday for the death of the third baby. He’ll also be sentenced for involuntary manslaughter in the medication overdose death of a patient and hundreds of other counts.

Prosecutors had asked for the death penalty because Gosnell was accused of killing more than one person and because his victims were particularly vulnerable. But Gosnell’s age — 72 — made his execution unlikely before his appeals were exhausted.

The case became a focal point in the national abortion debate. Abortion opponents said Gosnell was not uncommon among abortion providers and accused the news media of underplaying the story; abortion-rights advocates said he was a deplorable aberration whose case actually showed the need for safe, legal abortions.

Gosnell had few defenders besides his attorney, Jack McMahon, who said the prosecution of his African-American client was racially motivated and that “the media has been overwhelmingly against him.” He also said that the fetuses were not born alive — any movements or sounds were posthumous twitching or spasms.

Rick Hampson writes for USA Today. Via RNS.

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