Tempers run high as attorneys debate whether Gosnell’s murder victims were born alive
By Cheryl Sullenger
Philadelphia, PA – The fifth week of Kermit Gosnell’s capital murder trial resumed today with graphic testimony from Dr. Sam Gulino, Chief Medical Examiner for the City of Philadelphia, who discussed his examination of the remains of 47 fetuses seized by law enforcement authorities from his “House of Horrors” abortion clinic. Dr. Gulino testified that this case was unprecedented and he could not find a colleague who had ever dealt with a case involving frozen fetal remains of this nature.
For the first time, photos of Karnamaya Mongar’s dead baby were shown to the jury. Mongar died from an overdose of Demerol during a second trimester abortion done by Gosnell.
Mongar’s baby was estimated to be 16-19 weeks gestation. The baby’s skin was bright red, (a condition later described as the early stages of decomposition), and sported a head of dark brown hair. The Medical Examiner found no fetal anomalies when he examined the baby’s body. A photo of the back of the child showed a deep gash approximately an inch long in the back of the baby’s neck. Mongar’s abortion took place in 2009. [Note: This is a corrected date. The article previously stated Mongar's abortion took place in 2007, which was in error.]
Jury Sees More Dead Baby Photos
The bodies of a baby boy and a baby girl with similar neck gashes were also shown in grisly color on a large screen opposite the jury box. The remains on one baby, which was not shown to the jury, was described as missing both feet severed above the ankle and a right hand severed above the wrist.
Dr. Gulino testified that he received three batches of remains from Gosnell’s clinic, the largest of which contained the remains of 42 babies. The remains were frozen and stored in a variety of containers, including milk jugs, cat food cans, and even a cherry lime-ade container. The containers were each in bags and those bags were found in three large red bio-hazard bags. Several containers contained the “fragmented” remains of several babies. Ages were estimated from 12 weeks or less up to 22 weeks. He found that two of the babies were “possibly viable.”
It took Dr. Gulino five days just to catalog the contents before examinations could even be done.
Mystery of the Fetal Feet
He also later received five jars containing fetal feet and first trimester abortion remains that had been preserved in formaldehyde. The jars were labeled with the patient’s name and date of the abortions, which ranged from December 5-9, 2009. Two of the jars were from the same patient and contained a right and left foot of the same baby. Using the measurement of the feet, Dr. Gulino estimated the fetal ages to be 14-19 weeks gestation.
Gosnell’s defense attorney implied that the extremities were preserved in the event that DNA evidence was needed and as proof of fetal age, however, the severing of both feet and a hand would be unnecessary even if this were the case, Gulino testified. The prosecution believes that the feet and hands were taken as trophies by Gosnell, just as serial killers often engage in the practice of taking mementos from victims they kill.
Frozen Remains Present Challenges
Because the aborted baby remains had been frozen and thawed for examination, a tricky process, according to the medical examiner, the tissue samples were damaged to some extent, making testing to determine whether a baby breathed air inconclusive. Because of this, there was no way he could say for sure that any of the babies were actually born alive. However, he testified that it is possible that they were alive at birth or had been birthed into water such as into a toilet. Several former employees testified that they saw babies born into toilets at Gosnell’s clinic. There would be no reason to sever the baby’s spinal cords if they were dead prior to birth, as the defense claims.
The subject of viability was a touchy one on which McMahon aggressively questioned Dr. Gulino. Shockingly, McMahon marched to the jury box and dramatically asked Dr. Gulino, “If the baby is dead, it can’t be viable, can it?”
McMahon suggested that any movements by a baby after birth were simply a condition known as cadaveric spasm, which was described as movement of muscle groups as the result of the rapid onset of rigor mortis. The medical examiner indicated that was unlikely due to the under-developed nature of muscles at the gestational ages being discussed.
Testimony ended when a shouting match broke out between McMahon and prosecutor Edward Cameron over whether the babies were born alive. Cameron was conducting questioning on re-direct when McMahon angrily blurted out a question out of turn. The two men began shouting at each other, and both were shouted down by Judge Jeffery Minehart, who rebuked McMahon and told him to “act lake a lawyer.” The argument ended questioning for the day.
Planned Parenthood Abortionist Testifies
Earlier in the morning, testimony was heard from Charles David Benjamin, an abortionist who works for Planned Parenthood in Philadelphia. Benjamin was presented as an abortion expert over the objections of Gosnell’s attorney Jack McMahon.
Benjamin, a stocky, balding middle-aged man, stated that he is a Doctor of Osteopathy who trains residents as part of his staff duties at Albert Einstein hospital in Philadelphia. He admitted to having done 40,000 abortions over his 30 years in practice.
Benjamin testified concerning Gosnell’s grossly outdated sonogram machine, his use of drugs in abortion procedures, and the dispensing of pain and sedation drugs by Gosnell’s unqualified workers in his absence.
Benjamin Admits to Missing Drugs
Benjamin told the court that his clinic’s crash cart is inspected monthly and admitted that he has had emergency drugs tampered with or missing, which was discovered during inspections. The only crash cart Gosnell apparently owned was not stored at his clinic, but found by police under his bed at his residence.
As for Gosnell’s use of digoxin to kill the pre-born baby prior to a late-term abortion, Benjamin testified that amounts recorded on Gosnell’s charts represented more than 500 times the normal dosage. Testimony given earlier in the trial indicated that there was no physical evidence that digoxin was ever used on the babies he is charged with murdering.
The trial will resume tomorrow morning with the family of Karnamaya expected to testify. Operation Rescue will be reporting from the trial all week.
Gosnell Trial Archives
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