PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - A Philadelphia doctor was sent to prison on Wednesday to serve three life terms without parole for murdering babies during late-term abortions and other crimes at his squalid clinic.
In a deal that spared him from the death penalty, Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 72, faced a judge in a two-day sentencing at Philadelphia Common Pleas Court after waiving his right to appeal his conviction on three counts of first-degree murder.
Graphic trial testimony about Gosnell’s actions at the now-shuttered Women’s Medical Society Clinic in West Philadelphia, which served a predominantly black and low-income community, cast a spotlight on the controversial practice of late-term abortions.
A seven-woman, five-man jury convicted Gosnell on Monday in the case that focused on whether the infants were born alive and then killed. A clinic worker testified during the trial that the doctor had delivered live babies during botched late-term abortions and cut their spinal cords.
Gosnell’s defense had claimed there was no evidence that the babies were alive after they were aborted and that any noise or movement would have been involuntary spasms.
After the sentencing, Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams called Gosnell a “monster” and said imprisoning him for the rest of his life would prevent him from harming others.
“Kermit Gosnell will never kill another baby, he will never kill another woman seeking medical assistance,” Williams said. “He will never again subject poor women to barbaric procedures performed in squalor under less than third world conditions.”
Gosnell’s lawyer, Jack McMahon, said Gosnell maintained his innocence.
“He believes what he did was not homicide. He believes he never killed a live baby,” McMahon told reporters.
Jurors speaking publicly for the first time said after the sentencing on Wednesday that the trial, which lasted more than two months, was emotionally draining.
“There was a lot to deal with,” said jury foreman David Misko, 27. Asked why the jurors agreed to convict Gosnell on first-degree murder charges, he said they found that the doctor’s actions were premeditated.
“It was business as usual,” Misko said. “He snipped the necks no matter what happened.”
Both anti-abortion and abortion rights advocates pointed to the trial as powerful evidence for their arguments. But juror Sarah Glinski, 23, said the highly emotional issue of abortion had no place in the jury deliberation room.
“Unfortunately with this trial things like pro life and pro choice take the forefront. For me and for all of us, it wasn’t about abortion. It was about the murder of these children,” Glinski said.
One juror, Joseph Carroll, 46, said the women undergoing abortions should have been charged too.
“It should be their fault too for having such late term babies. The mothers should have been charged. Women know when they are pregnant,” Carroll said.
Gosnell was sentenced on Wednesday to a life term in the murder of Baby A, whom a clinic worker said the doctor had described as “big enough to walk me to the bus stop.”
He had previously been sentenced late on Tuesday to two life terms in the murders of Baby C and Baby D.
With three capital murder convictions, Gosnell faced a potential death penalty. The same jury was to decide his fate next week, but the sentencing deal eliminated that possibility.
Gosnell was also sentenced on Wednesday to up to five years for the involuntary manslaughter of a patient, Karnamaya Mongar, 41, of Virginia, who died from a drug overdose after going to him for an abortion.
He also was sentenced to up to 20 years each for two conspiracy charges in the babies’ deaths and a charge of running a corrupt organization.
Testimony depicted a filthy clinic that prosecutors called a “house of horrors.”
The jury also convicted Gosnell of infanticide and 211 counts of failing to comply with a state law that requires a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion is performed.
In addition, he was found guilty of performing 21 abortions after 24 weeks into pregnancy at his clinic. It is legal in Pennsylvania to abort a fetus up to 24 weeks.
Given that Gosnell will spend the rest of his life in prison for the murders, Judge Jeffrey Minehart declined to sentence him further.
Nine states ban abortions after 20 weeks, according to the pro-choice organization NARAL. Other states recently put new restrictions on abortions, with Arkansas banning them at 12 weeks and North Dakota at six weeks.
Ninety-two percent of abortions are performed before 14 weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 1.3 percent are performed beyond 20 weeks.
Gosnell has been in jail since his arrest in January 2011.
Eight other defendants have pleaded guilty to a variety of charges and are in jail awaiting sentencing later this month. They include Gosnell’s wife, Pearl, a cosmetologist who helped perform abortions.
Writing by Barbara Goldberg and Ellen Wulfhorst; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Chris Reese