When Dr. Kermit Gosnell was arrested and charged with murdering a patient and seven newborns, employees at his West Philadelphia abortion clinic thought he would stand trial on his own.
But a Philadelphia judge ruled Friday that the nine clinic workers would be tried alongside their former boss, though only four of the nine face murder charges, while the other five are charged with lesser crimes.
In denying requests by two of the clinic workers to be tried separately from Gosnell and their former co-workers, Judge Benjamin Lerner decided that it would be unduly traumatic for the daughter of Karnamaya Mongar, a 41-year-old immigrant woman who died at Gosnell’s abortion clinic, to force her to testify at as many as 10 separate trials.
“There’s no question,” said Lerner, “that there’s going to be some prejudice that attaches to a defendant in that position.” However, he added, Pennsylvania law does not require separate trials but instructions to jurors to consider evidence against each defendant individually.
The clinic workers find themselves facing trial two years after Gosnell botched an abortion that killed Mongar. The 70-year-old abortion doctor also stands accused of murdering seven late-term babies who, according to prosecutors, were born alive before being killed with scissors.
Authorities say they uncovered Gosnell’s alleged crimes during an onsite investigation of illegal prescription drug sales at Women’s Medical Society, his corner abortion clinic whose clients were mainly poor and immigrant women who could not obtain abortions elsewhere.
What they discovered was a “disgusting, squalid, horrifying” facility. There were jars lining shelves containing the feet of aborted babies, authorities reported, for no medical reason. Some fetal remains were stored in a refrigerator where clinc staff kept their lunches.
Authorities believe that Gosnell amassed a fortune over the years between his alleged trafficking in illegal prescription drugs and surreptitious performance of illegal late term abortions. Authorities say he charged patients based on how much their aborted babies weighed.
His wife Pearl, a cosmetologist, appears to have participated in the family business. She is charged with performing very late-term abortions on Sundays, when the clinic supposedly was closed.
Defense lawyers say they will fight the charges against Gosnell and his abortion clinic. They are expected to make motions at a pre-trial hearing next month to bar the most damning evidence.