The judge overseeing the murder trial of Pennsylvania abortionist Kermit Gosnell threw out three charges of murder, through the doctor is still accused of killing four babies who survived abortions.
Gosnell was faced with seven counts of first degree murder for the deaths of infants who allegedly were killed after surviving botched procedures at his Philadelphia clinic, the Women’s Medical Society.
The abortionist also faces a third-degree murder charge for the 2009 death of a Virginia woman who died after his untrained clinic employees administered an overdose of a drug.
On April 23, Judge Jeffrey Minehart granted motions to acquit Gosnell on three murder charges and five charges of abuse of a corpse.
He later reinstated a charge of murder against a baby who was “moving and breathing for 20 minutes” before it was killed. Instead, he dismissed charges for a baby bay who jerked its leg before Gosnell severed his spinal cord, Cybercast News Service reports.
The judge gave no reasons for his initial decision, the New York Times says. He later said a “clerical error” meant the wrong murder charge had been thrown out.
Prosecuting attorneys argued that the babies had reacted and made movements proving they were alive before their necks were cut. Gosnell's lawyer, however, has claimed that there is no evidence any of the babies were born alive.
Judge Minehart made similar arguments as an attorney in a 1997 case. He served as a defense attorney for a teenage girl charged with concealing the death of her newborn baby. At the time, Minehart argued that there were no signs of life.
“There was no movement, no breathing detected, and its eyes were closed, and there was no crying,” Minehart said at his client’s trial, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported in 1997.
Minehart’s client later pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
The charges against Gosnell resulted from a February 2010 FBI raid seeking evidence of illegal distribution of prescription painkillers. The raid uncovered gruesome practices at the clinic.
Witness testimony and the grand jury investigation suggests many more babies were killed after being born alive.
Former Gosnell employee Stephen Massof in courtroom testimony in early April said that he saw about 100 babies born alive. He said clinic workers then “snipped” the back of their neck to ensure their “demise.”
Massof, an unlicensed graduate of a Grenada medical school, told jurors the procedure was “literally a beheading,” NBC 10 Philadelphia reports.
Witnesses in the case said some babies were born alive in the toilet and struggled to live. Other allegations claim that a 15-year-old administered anesthesia to patients and a doctor spread sexually transmitted infections to women through poor sanitary standards.
In addition to the four remaining murder charges, the abortionist still faces a third-degree murder charge related to the death of a patient at his Philadelphia clinic.
The dismissed charges of abuse of a corpse resulted from the discovery of jars containing the severed feet of unborn babies. Closing arguments in the case will begin on Monday.