Monday, November 30, 2015

Healer or monster?

Will the real Kermit Gosnell please stand up?

Healer or monster?

Dr. Kermit Gosnell and his lawyer, William Brennan, talks to DN reporter on Monday, March 8, 2010.  (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)
Dr. Kermit Gosnell and his lawyer, William Brennan, talks to DN reporter on Monday, March 8, 2010. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)

The resume is impressive.

Only child of a middle-class Philadelphia family, 1959 graduate of Central High School, undergraduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree from Dickinson College. A medical degree from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia followed by four decades of practicing community medicine among the poor including the creation of a drug half-way house in Mantua and a teen aid program.

Married with six children including a professor at a storied New England university, a surgeon in San Francisco, aspiring actor in Los Angeles, a college student and teenager in high school as well as a woman brought into the house as a child and raised as their daughter.

That’s the story of Kermit Barron Gosnell. Or at least one story.

“That’s the kind of man were talking about here,” said Jack McMahon, the veteran criminal defense attorney representing Gosnell, referring to his client’s life story.

McMahon told the jury in his opening statement last Monday that the prosecution of Gosnell was the “most incredible rush to judgment like I’ve never seen in a criminal case before.”

Then there’s the other Kermit Barron Gosnell, the 72-year-old West Philadelphia doctor on trial for his life on seven counts of first-degree murder: seven infants born during illegal late-term abortions and dispatched by Gosnell, who prosecutors say snipped their necks with surgical scissors.

In her opening to the jury, Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore did not touch on Gosnell’s upbringing, education and background. Instead, the prosecutor focused on Gosnell post-1979: after the opening of his Women’s Medical Society Clinic at 3801 Lancaster Ave. It was from then until 2010 when, the prosecution alleges, Gosnell’s practice evolved from a clinic treating the poor into one raking in millions in cash from poor women seeking illegal late-term abortions – even if it meant killing infants born alive and viable.

As Gosnell’s Philadelphia Common Pleas Court trial enters the second of what could be six to eight weeks of testimony, it’s worth noting the incredibly diverse portraits of one man that the jury of seven women and five men is being asked to reconcile.

Based on the e-mails and phone calls I’ve received, the jurors aren’t the only ones looking for an answer.

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About this blog
Inquirer reporter Joe Slobodzian covers the courts and writes about the people who find themselves there and what they face.

You can reach Slobodzian at 215-854-2985 or Reach Joseph A. at

Joseph A. Slobodzian
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