Closing arguments are set to begin on Monday in the murder trial of former abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell.
The trial has lasted seven weeks, with a lengthy array of witnesses that included several former employees who pleaded guilty before the case went to trial. Earlier this week Judge Jeffrey Minehart dismissed three of the seven charges of murder against Gosnell, upholding defense attorney Jack McMahon’s argument that breathing motions and other movements by three aborted babies was not an indication that they had been alive. Minehart agreed that the prosecution did not present sufficient evidence to prove the babies were alive when taken from the womb.
The defense rested on Wednesday without bringing any witnesses and Gosnell did not take the stand during the proceedings.
“Once fetuses leave the mother, they are then due the respect that would be given any human being,” argued Assistant District Attorney Ed Cameron on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Minehart also supported a defense motion to drop charges of abuse of a corpse – charges filed over fetal remains found by investigators at Gosnell’s Women’s Medical Society.
“There is not one piece — not one — of objective, scientific evidence that anyone was born alive,” McMahon counter-argued.
Gosnell, 72, is still charged with the murders of four babies who were allegedly born alive and whose lives were terminated when their spines were severed – a procedure Gosnell allegedly referred to as “snipping.” He is also charged in the 2009 death of a patient, Karnamaya Mongar, 41, who died from being overmedicated. Also on trial is 56-year-old Eileen O’Neil, an unlicensed doctor who worked with Gosnell. She is charged with participating in a corrupt organization.
McMahon, during his cross-examination of witnesses, argued that the breathing motions or other brief movements were involuntary; involuntary motion is part of the death process, he argued. Prosecutors Ed McCann and Joanne Pescatore have argued that Gosnell used untrained and unlicensed staff to medicate patients waiting for abortions. Stephen Massof and Kareema Cross, two of those former staff members, testified during the trial.
Cross told the court that many times she saw delivered babies breathing and moving and said she heard some of them crying. Often, she said Gosnell was not even present at the facility during procedures.
Investigators said conditions at Gosnell’s facility, the Women’s Medical Society, were filthy. They said furniture and blankets were stained with blood, medical instruments were never properly sterilized, and disposable medical supplies were either not properly disposed of or were reused. Medical monitoring equipment was broken and fetal remains were kept in cabinets, jars or plastic jugs in a freezer or the basement, they testified.
Testimony by expert witnesses has been a key element for the prosecution in the case. Prosecutors called neonatologists who estimated that some of the babies were at nearly 30 weeks gestation, far past the state’s 24-week limit for abortions. But Gosnell’s defense argued that the dating is imprecise, with a margin of error of at least two weeks on either side.
The case against Gosnell started to come to light when authorities executed a search warrant at the Women’s Medical Society at 3801 Lancaster Ave., on Feb. 18, 2010. Local, state and federal authorities had been investigating him for several months, following allegations of illegal prescription drug activity.
What authorities said they found when they raided the clinic was a dirty and unsanitary facility. Half-conscious women were lying on dirty recliners, covered with bloodstained blankets. There was blood on the floor and the stench of cat urine permeated the atmosphere. A procedure room was compared by one investigator to a bad gas station bathroom.
As authorities continued their search they found the remains of dead fetuses stored in biohazard bags, in milk jugs, cat food containers and orange juice containers. Some of the remains were stored in a refrigerator and others were frozen. Investigators also found medical waste piled in the basement and rows of jars containing the severed feet of fetuses.
Prosecutors said Gosnell admitted to detectives that at least 10 to 20 percent of the fetuses were probably older than 24 weeks.
-- The Associated Press contributed to this story.
The office of Mayor Michael Nutter confirmed that his 18-year old daughter Olivia was assaulted at a high school track meet last Thursday.
According to police, the incident occurred on April 18, when another girl, identified by investigators as Ciarra Ryan, 18, allegedly punched Nutter and pulled her hair. Police said that the young woman was walking toward a group of girls at a meet in East Mount Airy in the 1100 block of East Sedgwick Street at 5:44 p.m. when one of them told her to move, according to police. Moments later, Miss Nutter was assaulted. Police were called to the scene and the alleged assailant fled the area. When officers arrived at the scene they were met by Nutter who informed them she was assaulted after a verbal altercation. Northwest Detectives got an arrest warrant for Ryan, who is from the 5100 block of Pulaski Street and she was arrested about an hour later. She has been charged with simple assault and recklessly endangering another person.
Law enforcement authorities said the attack was unprovoked.
“There was an incident last Thursday and Olivia is okay,” said Mark McDonald, Nutter adminisration spokesperson. “The appropriate authorities are handing this.”
Court documents show that this latest incident is not Ryan’s first arrest. She was charged on January 16, 2013 with aggravated assault, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person. Those charges were dismissed for lack of evidence.
Increased Security for Penn Relays
The 119th annual Penn Relays got underwayThursday, and in light of the bombing incident in Boston, there will be heightened security for the popular city event.
Backpacks and large bags will not be permitted into Franklin Field or the Relay Carnival Village for spectators. All purses will be searched, according to University of Pennsylvania Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush. Participants are allowed to bring backpacks but they will also be searched. Backpacks will only be allowed in through designated entrances. Sealed plastic water bottles are permitted but coolers, glass bottles and cans are not.
“People across the country right now are very nervous about going to large events, and we want to ensure they feel totally comfortable coming here,” Rush said in a published report.
Three Minors with a Gun Sought by Police
Philadelphia police are searching for three minors who they say assaulted a man in North Philadelphia with a gun.
The incident occurred in the Tioga section of the city on Monday around 6:45 p.m. According to police, a 27-year-old man was approached by a group of males on the 3300 block of North 16th Street. Police said one of the males then reached into his backpack, pulled out a handgun and pointed it at the victim saying “Hey buddy.” The victim ran into a house and called 911 while the suspect fled south toward Allegheny Avenue, reports officials.
Twenty minutes earlier another juvenile was captured on surveillance video approaching a female and pointed a handgun at her. The female put her hands up as if she was being robbed, but then continued walking from the area. Suddenly another male appears and takes the handgun from the juvenile and walks east on Ontario Street. This male then drops to one knee and points the handgun in the direction of a group of males walking toward him. The suspect then runs toward the males with the gun in hand and then joins this group of males at 16th and Ontario Streets. The very young suspects are described as follows: Suspect 1: Black male, 10-12 years-of-age, 4 feet 9 inches, thin build, wearing a red t-shirt with white writing, blue shorts, green sneakers and a multicolored backpack. This suspect is wanted for questioning about the firearm.
Suspect 2: Black male, 14-16 years-of-age, thin build, dark complexion, 5 feet 5 inches to 5 feet 7 inches, wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt, dark pants with black and white sneakers carrying a red backpack.
Suspect 3: Black male, 14-16 years-of-age, thin build, light complexion, close cut hair on sides, 5 feet 5 inches to 5 feet 7 inches tall, wearing a red zip up hooded sweatshirt, camouflage pants with black and white sneakers.
When Michael Nutter was elected mayor of Philadelphia in 2008, the issue of public safety was a major component of his successful campaign.
Nutter said he wanted to see a 30 percent reduction in the number of homicides committed in the city – an attainable goal – and one that required the joint efforts of local, state and federal resources to attain. As 2013 moves into its second quarter, and as of Tribune press time, there have been 76 murders in Philadelphia, as compared to the 104 murders for the same time in 2012. Nutter and Commissioner Charles Ramsey rightly pointed out during an editorial board meeting at the Tribune on Monday that there has been a significant reduction in the number of murders. But an angry District Attorney Seth Williams said the city could lose those gains if his office isn’t properly funded.
Williams’ remarks followed a morning of testimony before City Council on Monday regarding the 2014 funding allocated to his office in the mayor’s budget. Williams said at least $2.7 million is needed to sustain the current programs and to continue making headway in improving the criminal justice system in Philadelphia.
“My concern is fighting violent crime – public safety – and right now I am beyond frustrated and mad about this non-process,” an angry Williams told the Tribune. “No one from the mayor’s office reached out to me about what our budgetary needs were, what our attrition rate was or anything. They never requested to see any financial documents and they never asked us any questions at all. The day before the mayor announced his budget before City Council was the day we received our operating budget. The mayor de-funded this office.”
Williams stated in his address before council that on its face the mayor’s budget was the same as the FY2013 budget - $31,634,616. The reality, said the district attorney, is a significant cut. Nutter, he said authorized a 2.5 percent pay increase for non-union city workers. An arbitration award for the Fraternal Order of Police granted an increase in the salaries for detectives. Williams, speaking before City Council this past Monday stated that the city only kicked in some partial funding to cover the 2.5 percent salary increases and no money to cover the FOP arbitration.
“As a result, my office was left to try and fill in budgetary holes to insure a balance budget,” Williams told City Council. “This is not how the mayor treated other criminal justice agencies. He proposes to increase budgets for the police by $24 million, the prisons by $10 million, the Office of Information Technology by $13 million and even the public defender’s office by $1.2 million. This not about a lack of money; there was no budget process – no discussion with us. We tried – I wrote a detailed letter to the mayor on March 6 but no one responded. The mayor simply seems to assume that you don’t need prosecutors to help fight crime or find new and better ways to make the city safer. Not adequately funding the district attorney’s office is a recipe for disaster. It will lead to a failed criminal justice system in which criminals are not held accountable.”
According to Williams, he’s asking for an additional $2.75 million to sustain the current programs handled by his department; the Gun Violence Task Force, the accelerated misdemeanor program, Small Amounts of Marijuana Program and others that divert low-level offenders out of the justice system. Other program such as the Public Nuisance Task Force, Community Action Centers and others would also suffer or be eliminated altogether. As of last week, there were over 4,300 violent crimes in Philadelphia so far this year. That number included 74 homicides, 307 rapes, and 760 gun robberies. Two new homicides occurred on Tuesday night – a double murder in which a couple was shot multiple times in the city’s Kensington section, bringing the number of murders to 76.
In 2012 Williams also went before City Council requesting addition funds to hire more assistant district attorneys. He said last year and reiterated this year that among the nation’s 22 largest counties, Philadelphia is the second lowest for funding for a prosecutor’s office. Williams also said that underfunding is also an indication that murder rates are often higher where the funding is lower.
“It’s almost directly inversely proportional — the rate of funding to the rate of violent crime,” Williams said, adding that the latest statistics show the murder rate is up 9 percent. “Philadelphia has the second worst funding, and one of the highest murder rates. We find ourselves in the midst of unacceptable levels of violent crime. Philadelphia continues to fare much worse than the country as a whole, with murder and robbery rates four times the national average.”
Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison said that he understands the DA’s concerns and looks foreward to resolving his budget issues.
“Obviously we don’t share Seth’s view of this process. He’s been a great partner and he’s always been comfortable calling either the mayor or me,” Gillison said. “I did reply to his letter and said we would talk about his concerns at the proper time. We negotiate these things at the proper time and reach a compromise. Unfortunately his people did not inform us regarding a shortage and it’s unfortunate that he took this tact. But he’s a good partner - this could have been handled differently and we’ve been trying to put together a meeting to discuss parity. We look forward to resolving this because we have a great relationship at the core.”
Mayor Michael Nutter told The Tribune at an editorial board meeting on Monday that while the federal government had justifiably marshaled enormous resources to combat international terrorism, there hasn’t been a comparable response to crime and violence in America’s cities.
Nutter, who is also president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, said such a response is needed to address the street violence perpetrated across the nation every year. To that end, he has drafted a proposal calling for the creation of a National Commission on Domestic Terrorism, Violence and Crime in America.
“The federal government should expend the tremendous resources it has to track down international terrorists and fight them,” he said. “But when it comes to domestic terrorists – and let’s face it, if little children can’t play outside, and people are prisoners in their homes because of the crime and violence on our streets - that’s terrorism. In America we have 11,000 or 12,0090 people murdered every year. We need a comparable response to that kind of terrorism, and we haven’t seen that. When 9/11 happened, the Department of Homeland Security was created from scratch; we changed the laws governing civilian flights, changing the way people fly forever. Whenever we decide we want to do something, we do it. We sent people to the moon because we wanted to. We can do the same when it comes to crime and violence.”
The proposal calls for Congress to establish a joint investigatory committee to look at crime and violence and their prevention. If established, the committee would make recommendations on what government can do on the local, state and federal levels to reduce domestic terrorism, violence and crime.
The mayor’s remarks were part of a candid editorial board meeting at the Tribune. Nutter said that while the number of homicides in Philadelphia has dropped for the first quarter of 2013, the next six months could drastically alter things — and that’s something no one wants to see.
The mayor was joined by Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and Deputy Commissioner Richard Ross, who pragmatically stated that while the city has made progress when compared to other years, it’s still not time for the victory party. Not with a 15-year old boy – the latest victim to gun violence — fighting for his life. The boy, who was shot on Sunday afternoon in the 400 block of East Washington Lane, was hit in the chest just after 3:30 p.m. Nutter said that while the number of homicides is down,, shooting victims are being hit multiple times, and there are more high-powered firearms on the streets.
“We’ve had a good quarter, but obviously a quarter doesn’t make a year — and this could change over the next six months,” he said. “Of course that’s not something we want to see happen. So far we’ve had a 39 percent reduction in homicides [from last year] – and when we compare those numbers with the first quarter of 2007, it shows a 47 percent reduction. When we came in office in 2007 I stated that I wanted to see a 30 percent drop in homicides, so we’re a little ahead of that. Everything is generally in comparison to trends in previous years. The first quarter of 2013 was significantly better than the first quarter of 2012, which was pretty bad, the first three months were hard for us and we ended 2012 with 331 homicides.”
Nutter said that 2012 was only slightly better than 2011, when the city saw 324 people killed. For the first quarter of 2012 there were 89 homicides. For the first quarter of 2013 there have been 54 homicides. Ramsey said the Police Department has not only redeployed manpower, but replaced individuals in key positions.
“Sometimes, as with any job, someone can get burned out and you need fresh eyes. We’re doing a lot of things differently,” he said. “We reorganized manpower and our task forces. We started seeing results last year and identified 32 hot spots citywide. In different districts there are different problems. In the Northwest part of the city we see more property crimes, whereas in the Southwest there’s more gun violence. The district attorney’s office has its own initiatives such as recommending high bail for the most violent offenders – keeping them off the streets.”
The trial of accused murderer Kermit Gosnell was delayed Monday because of the illness of defense lawyer Jack McMahon. McMahon, who has argued that there were no live births at the defendant’s Women’s Medical Society and that his client committed no murders, has also asserted that racial bias is playing a part in in Gosnell’s prosecution.
Gosnell has been charged with killing seven infants and causing the death of a patient, Karnamaya Mongar, who was allegedly overmedicated. Also on trial is Eileen O’Neill, who has been charged with practicing medicine without a license and participating in a corrupt organization. Both have pleaded not guilty.
During her opening arguments, assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore said that the case against Gosnell wasn’t about the legal or moral ramifications of abortion, but about murder. The case is about illegal late-term abortions of infants who were born through forced labor and had their spines severed by scissors inserted into the backs of their necks. Pescatore said Mongar died from being overdosed with too much anesthesia and pain medication administered by unlicensed and improperly trained medical assistants.
“This case is about seven infants who were born alive and had their spines cut. It is about a woman, Karnamaya Mongar who was murdered,” Pescatore said. “This case is about desperate women who came to the Women’s Medical Society for help. The title Women’s Medical Society sounds impressive, doesn’t it? But Gosnell was a wolf in sheep’s clothing and the Women’s Medical Society hid a house of horrors, a charnel house. We’re going to show you pictures of the horrors that happened there, things that were horrible to witness and worse to see. What the women and the babies suffered at the hands of Gosnell are unconscionable. This was about money and the way Gosnell did it was to keep the volume high, keep expenses low and maximize the profits.”
Suspect Sought in Wissinoming sexual assault
The Philadelphia Police Department’s Special Victims Unit is looking to identify the suspect who sexually assaulted and robbed a 19 year-old-female in the Wissinoming section of the city
Investigators said that on April 8 at 3:45 a.m., the victim was walking from the SEPTA Frankford Terminal in the 5700 block of Frankford Avenue when an unknown male approached her and attempted to engage her in a conversation. As she continued walking, the suspect punched her in the face, then picked her up and carried her across the street behind the recreation center at Wissinoming Park, where he sexually assaulted her and robbed her of $100 before fleeing.
The suspect is described as a Black male, 25-35 years-of-age. He is about 6 feet tall with a medium build and a dark complexion. He has a beard, was wearing a red hooded sweatshirt with white designs or patches on the front and sleeve, bluejeans and glasses.