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Some Charges Dropped in Murder Trial of Philadelphia Abortion Provider

Some Charges Dropped in Murder Trial of Philadelphia Abortion Provider

April 24, 2013 —A Pennsylvania judge on Tuesday dismissed three of the seven murder charges against Philadelphia physician Kermit Gosnell, who is accused of killing infants born alive during abortion procedures, the New York Times reports (Hurdle, New York Times, 4/23).

Gosnell went on trial in March for the seven charges, as well as for allegedly causing the death of a pregnant woman during a procedure at his West Philadelphia clinic, which a grand jury has described as filthy and dangerous (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/16).

On Tuesday, Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Minehart also granted the defense a motion for acquittal in five charges of abuse of corpse and one charge of infanticide. The remaining charges include four of first-degree murder for the deaths of the infants and one of third-degree murder for the death of the patient. Convictions on the murder charges could result in the death penalty, according to the Times (New York Times, 4/23).

Timing of Decision

Minehart did not provide a reason for his decision, although the announcement was made after the defense filed a motion for acquittal arguing that there was insufficient evidence the infants were born alive (Slobodzian, Philadelphia Inquirer, 4/24). The motion for acquittal preceded the start of the defense's arguments, which are scheduled to begin on Wednesday.

In his arguments to the judge, defense attorney Jack McMahon said there is not "one piece of real scientific evidence that any one [infant] was born alive" (New York Times, 4/23). He argued that the infants had received a drug to stop their hearts during the abortion process and that any motion witnessed outside of the women's bodies were "not the movements of a live child" (Stanglin, USA Today, 4/23).

Meanwhile, Assistant District Attorney Edward Cameron argued that six of the seven cases were backed by testimony that the infants were born alive (Philadelphia Inquirer, 4/23). He said that under the law, movements were sufficient evidence that they were born alive (New York Times, 4/23).