PHILADELPHIA (AP) — An abortion provider charged with killing babies after they were born alive won a reprieve of sorts when a judge threw out three murder counts, but the death penalty still looms if he is convicted in four other newborn deaths.
Lawyers for Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 72, could start presenting defense witnesses as early as today. Gosnell has been in prison since a 2011 grand jury report that described his outdated West Philadelphia clinic as “a house of horrors.”
Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Minehart ruled Tuesday that prosecutors had failed to make a case on three of the seven first-degree murder counts, involving aborted babies known as Baby B, Baby C and Baby G.
Defense lawyer Jack McMahon challenged testimony from former staffers that they routinely saw aborted babies move, breathe or cry, even after they’d been given a drug designed to stop their heart in utero. McMahon argued that any movement or breath seen by the staffers amounted to involuntary spasms.
He noted that each of the babies had purportedly moved, breathed or whined just once.
“These are not the movements of a live child,” McMahon argued Tuesday, after a month of prosecution testimony. “There is not one piece — not one — of objective, scientific evidence that anyone was born alive.”
Minehart did not elaborate on his ruling, leaving the nearly full courtroom of reporters, abortion opponents and others to interpret his reasoning.
Co-worker Lynda Williams had admitted cutting the spine of Baby C, and pleaded guilty to third-degree murder. She said the baby had been alive for as long as 20 minutes.
“She pulled the baby’s arm and the baby pulled back,” Assistant District Attorney Ed Cameron said Tuesday.