PHILADELPHIA — Kermit Barron Gosnell — the West Philadelphia doctor whose career in urban medicine began during the “war on poverty” and ended 40 years later as a hated symbol of the anti-abortion movement — was found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder Monday by a Philadelphia jury.
The jury acquitted Gosnell of one count of first-degree murder involving an infant that prosecutors said was born alive and killed during an abortion.
In Pennsylvania, first-degree murder — the premeditated, malicious killing of a person — is punishable by death by lethal injection or life in prison without chance of parole.
Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey P. Minehart set the beginning of Gosnell’s death penalty phase for a week from Tuesday.
The Common Pleas Court jury of seven women and five men immediately began preparing for a “penalty phase hearing” where they will hear evidence from prosecution and defense before deciding if Gosnell, 72, should live or die.
The Common Pleas Court jury of seven women and five men also found Gosnell guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the 2009 death of a 41-year-old abortion patient, Karnamaya Mongar, who the jury determined was overdosed on Demerol by Gosnell’s untrained staff.
The jury also found Gosnell’s co-defendant Eileen O’Neill, 56, of Phoenixville, guilty of two counts of theft by deception and two counts of conspiracy involving her work as an unlicensed doctor seeing patients in the family practice of Gosnell’s Women’s Medical Society clinic at 3801 Lancaster Ave.
Minehart let O’Neill remain free on $30,000 bail pending sentencing July 15.
The jury, which began deliberating late on April 30 after sitting through six weeks of often grisly testimony and evidence, also found Gosnell guilty of numerous violations of the state Abortion Control Act and racketeering charges involving his clinic’s operation.
For Gosnell, the journey leading to the verdict began about 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 18, 2010. After working the day at an abortion clinic in Wilmington, Del., Gosnell returned to West Philadelphia to begin a series of abortions that typically took him and his staff into the early morning hours of the following day.
Both arms full with bags containing his dinner and fresh clams for his pet turtles, Gosnell was cradling a cellphone on his shoulder, talking to his third wife when he was accosted by agents from a federal-state task force with a search warrant for the clinic.
The agents were investigating the sale of prescriptions for oxycodone and other addictive narcotic medicines and they suspected the scripts were coming from Women’s Medical Society.
Agents testified at trial that they picked the evening for their raid because they wanted to avoid patients during their search. Instead, as Gosnell calmly led them into the rambling three-story brick building, the agents encountered Gosnell’s staff and a half-dozen women sedated and in advanced labor waiting for Gosnell to perform abortions.
But as they searched for evidence in the drug investigation, agents found other more-shocking evidence: unsanitary conditions including blood and body fluids on the floor and furniture, the odor of a pet store permeating the building from Gosnell’s cat, fish and turtles, and the remains of aborted fetuses and fetal body parts stored around the clinic.
Within a week, state health officials had suspended Gosnell’s medical license and three months later moved to permanently close the 30-year-old clinic. The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office launched its own grand jury investigation of whether babies born alive were killed in the clinic and whether Gosnell violated the state’s Abortion Control Act.
In January 2011, the District Attorney’s office announced charges against Gosnell alleging that he regularly performed illegal late-term abortions and used scissors to snip the spines of babies born alive. Nine untrained clinic employees — many who administered medicine, did ultrasound exams and assisted in abortions — were also charged including Gosnell’s wife, Pearl, 52.
In addition recommending criminal charges, the voluminous grand jury report excoriated state health inspectors for not visiting Gosnell’s clinic for more than a decade and not responding to complaints that Gosnell was performing illegal abortions on women over the 24-week limit in state law.
No state employees were criminally charged, but a month later the Corbett administration fired four state lawyers and two supervisors at the departments of health and state. Gov. Tom Corbett called the state workers’ failure to conduct the required annual inspections “despicable.”
By the time the case against Gosnell came to trial in March, all but Gosnell and O’Neill had pleaded guilty and most had agreed to testify against Gosnell.
As for the federal drug probe that started it all, in December 2011, a federal grand jury and federal prosecutors charged Gosnell and seven workers — including four who were charged in the abortion case.
All but Gosnell have pleaded guilty to the federal drug charges. Gosnell is scheduled for jury trial Sept. 9 before U.S. District Cynthia M. Rufe.