By Cheryl Sullenger
Philadelphia, PA — With lead prosecutor Joanne Pescatore wiping away tears, Assistant Ed Cameron gave an impassioned plea for justice in the final moments of his closing arguments in the Kermit Gosnell murder trial that left an impression on the gallery and most likely the jury.
Cameron had the last word for the jurors today as he began by meticulously summarized the testimony of the 54 witnesses who testified in this capital murder case where Gosnell faces four counts of first degree murder for severing the spinal cords of babies born alive during illegal late-term abortions done amidst squalid conditions with grossly unqualified, poorly trained staff.
“Viability or survivability is irrelevant,” Cameron told the jury, explaining that whether the babies were born alive is the standard the law asks them to consider.
“Outside the mother, all things change. It is a human being and has to be treated as such,” Cameron continued, noting that to accelerate the death process was to commit murder.
While some of the testimony summaries given by Cameron seemed sometimes plodding, each point was important to counter defense arguments that every baby was dead when it “precipitated” because Gosnell used Digoxin in each and every case.
Cameron seemed upset and even angry as McMahon introduced testimony during his own closing arguments that Cameron believed had not been entered into evidence during the seven week trial, at interrupting McMahon and later asking for a sidebar.
But when his turn came, Cameron quickly countered McMahon’s assertions that Gosnell used Digoxin to make sure the babies were dead prior to the abortion, noting that when Crime Scene Unit Officer John Taggart collected and cataloged all the drugs found inside Gosenell’s clinic, there was no Digoxin in that inventory.
Cameron recounted testimony from expert witnesses who said there were no puncture wounds in any of the babies nor was there any trace of digoxin in their systems. On the contrary, witnesses had said that Gosnell tried using Digoxin for awhile but that it never worked. He even tried increasing the dosages to as much as 400 times the recommended amount, only to eventually give up. It was then when he began “snipping” the necks of babies, according to testimony.
McMahon seemed to make a critical misstep when he explained that the neck snipping was to alleviate any pain that the brain might detect, indicating that there may have been brain function and the sensation of pain in these babies before their spinal cords were cut.
Cameron gave and agonizing account of how the newborn babies must have felt as they struggled to be born, finally entering the light only to be stabbed by Gosnell and doomed to slowly suffocate to death.
McMahon and described how there had been an unprecedented “rush to judgment” in this case, with no reporters writing about the presumption of innocence.
“Never in my career have I seen the presumption of innocence so stomped on,” McMahon said. He spoke of a “rush to judgment” and “knee-jerk assumptions without evidence.”
But Cameron indicated that the only “rush to judgment” had been by Gosnell “who was more interested in making a buck than about the health and safety of women.”
Cameron lambasted Eileen O’Neill for sharing culpability in the atrocities that took place at Gosnell’s clinic.
“She hid upstairs with her head in the sand. She’s not fit to be called a doctor,” he said.
Cameron related an incident when he once had a dog that got sick and had to be put down. The dog was given two injections; the first to put it to sleep and the second to kill it.
“My dog was treated better than he treated women and children,” Cameron said.
He described Gosnell’s “Henry Ford Model” of medicine, which consisted of an assembly line that allowed Gosnell to make vast amounts of money while cutting back on expenses. Such cutbacks included the reuse of one-dollar disposable curettes, a practice that endangered the health of women and spread Sexually Transmitted Diseases among his patients.
At one point, for emphasis, Cameron donned purple latex gloves and held up the filthy brownish-yellow curettes that were slightly warped from reuse. He then held up once more the disgustingly filthy vaginal probe and waved it for all to see. Cameron gestured toward the dirty, out-dated suction machine and asked how anyone could possibly read the pressure gauge since the glass cover was caked in dried blood.
Cameron dramatically turned to Gosnell and asked him, “Are you human?” then turned to the jury while pointing to Gosnell and said, “He’s the one in this case that doesn’t deserve to be called human.”
The Assistant District Attorney spoke with passion and emotion was he described how Gosnell “doesn’t even have the basic humanity” to treat the remains of his victims properly. “We know what happened to them,” he said, then recounted how the remains were placed in lime-aid containers and cat food cans, ground in a garbage disposal, or flushed down the toilet until the plumbing clogged. He reminded them of the testimony of Jimmy Johnson, who described how he opened up a clean-out drain and out pored recognizable fetal remains, such as arms and other body parts.
Of Karnamaya Mongar, Cameron concluded that she epitomized the American Dream, coming to America seeking a better life after 20 hard years in a refugee camp in Nepal. But when Gosnell heard Mongar’s respiration had slowed prior to the procedure, he responded by giving her more drugs. After being told half way through the abortion that Mongar had turned gray, Gosnell continued the abortion for twenty more minutes. A drug that could have counteracted the drug overdose was expired in the cabinet and went unused.
Mongar went to Gosnell, Cameron said, and “laid on that rusty table and he killed her…She should be alive and those babies should be alive,” he said.
McMahon talked in his closing arguments about a firestorm created by this case, characterizing it as a political tsunami that was racist and elitist in nature, threatening to swallow up all those involved. McMahon told the jury that District Attorney Seth Williams had “a big press conference, and things got out of control from there.”
At one point McMahon described how the witnesses pled guilty out of fear and even told the jury that Sherry West was framed for murder in the death of Karnamaya Mongar.
But Cameron again turned McMahon’s words on him, telling the jury that there was indeed a firestorm, but it was the one described by Steven Massof, an unlicensed abortionist who worked for Gosnell, when he testified, “I felt like a fireman in Hell.”
“That hell was 3801 Lancaster and Gosnell was the captain of that hell,” said Cameron. “It was raining fetuses,” he proclaimed, referring again to Massof’s testimony. “It’s time to extinguish that fire, that hell he created.”
“Those babies didn’t have a chance,” he continued. “They couldn’t say ‘Let me live,’ except for one baby that whined.”
If convicted on even one count of first degree murder, Gosnell could face the death penalty. He faces hundreds of lesser counts, including 24 charges related to illegal abortions beyond 24 weeks, and well over 200 counts of violating informed consent laws and failure to abide by a 24 hour waiting period.
O’Neill’s attorney asked earlier in the day for acquittal of her charges of “theft by deception” because, he noted, that her patients “got what they paid for.” He attempted to portray his client as a good doctor, even though she was unlicensed. He attempted to argue that O’Neill had not ducked out a side door out of fear of being caught doing something wrong, as she had told FBI agents that interviewed her and disputed the notion that she ever told authorities that 70% of what she did was done without Gosnell being present.
Conditions at the clinic were discussed, with McMahon showing select photos of the building that appeared to be relatively clean. However, Cameron pointed out that those photos had been taken only after the facility was cleaned and painted after the death of Mongar, and then again after the raid by the FBI and DEA. Cameron indicated that Kareema Cross’ photos that depicted something far more repulsive were more reflective of true conditions.
However, the most convincing evidence about the squalid conditions at what has become known as Gosnell’s “House of Horrors” was the equipment and furnishings that had been seized from the clinic and brought into the courtroom for the jury to see day after day.
After the proceedings concluded for the day, I was given the opportunity to enter the front of the court room and inspect that evidence for myself. Photos of the abortion table and objects simply do not relate the full extent of the aged equipment and the filth that encrusted it.
Judge Jeffery P. Minehart, who has presided over the trial, will give jury instructions on Tuesday morning then the case will be in the hands of the jury. Whether they can find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt remains to be seen.