PHILADELPHIA — Dr. Kermit Gosnell considered himself a pioneering inner-city doctor who helped desperate women get late-term abortions, but a Philadelphia jury called him a murderer who killed three babies after they were born alive.
Gosnell, 72, was convicted Monday of three counts of first-degree murder but acquitted of murdering a fourth aborted baby. He was also found guilty of manslaughter, not third-degree murder, in a patient's 2009 overdose death.
The same jury that returned that measured verdict after 10 days behind closed doors is set to return next week to decide if Gosnell deserves the death penalty.
Prosecutors want to send Gosnell to death row because he killed more than one person, and his victims were especially vulnerable given their age. But Gosnell's advanced age makes it unlikely he would ever be executed before his appeals ran out. Prosecutors might offer a life sentence if he agrees to give up those appeals.
Defense lawyer Jack McMahon called such negotiations commonplace, but declined to discuss whether they were likely in this case.
"The media has been overwhelmingly against him," McMahon said, calling Gosnell's case an uphill battle. "But I think the jury listened to the evidence ... and they found what they found. ... Five murder counts were not guilty, and so they obviously took their job seriously."
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, whose office undertook a grand jury investigation after the FBI stumbled upon the rogue abortion practices during a 2010 drug raid, declined comment until the sentencing phase concludes. That hearing is set to start May 21.
But partisans on both sides of the nation's polarized abortion debate were quick to weigh in after the verdict.
"This has helped more people realize what abortion is really about," said David O'Steen, executive director of the National Right to Life Committee. He said he hopes the case results in more states passing bills that prohibit abortion "once the unborn child can feel pain."