Saturday, April 19, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

The doctor is in

Kermit Gosnell hangs his shingle at Graterford

The doctor is in

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Kermit Gosnell, the former West Philadelphia abortionist convicted and sentenced to three consecutive life prison terms for killing three infants born alive during illegal late-term abortions, has a new title and address: Inmate LJ1445, of the State Correctional Institution at Graterford.

Gosnell, 72, was transferred to the sprawling prison in Montgomery County earlier this month after he was sentenced Dec. 16 in federal court in Philadelphia on his guilty plea to operating a “pill mill” – selling prescriptions for controlled narcotic drugs -- out of his Women’s Medical Society clinic at 3801 Lancaster Ave. Before then, he was being held at the Federal Detention Center at Seventh and Arch Streets in Center City.

This won’t be Gosnell’s last stop in the Pennsylvania prison system. According to state prison spokeswoman Susan Benzinger, Gosnell is in a holding area at Graterford pending his transfer to the Camp Hill state prison near Harrisburg. Camp Hill is the diagnostic center for all new inmates before they are permanently assigned to an institution.

While authorities plan where Gosnell will spend the rest of his life, the doctor has not been idle.

On Dec. 30, Gosnell filed his own handwritten appeal of his 30-year federal prison sentence, which he is serving at the same time as his three consecutive life terms. The chatty one-page notice of appeal to the sentencing judge, U.S. District Judge Cynthia M. Rufe, asks for help recovering court documents that were misplaced when he was shuttled among prisons.

Much of the letter, however, reiterates Gosnell’s claim that he was a victim of his “pain management patients” who abused his trust and his office by obtaining extra prescriptions for such addictive narcotics as oxycodone.

“By the time that I am able to return to your courtroom, I hope to find a better avenue of communication to persuade you of my convictions, especially in the perception and management of pain,” Gosnell wrote, quickly adding, “Please do not assume that my beliefs and assertions constitute a denial of my responsibility for my mistakes.”

He signed the filing: “Kermit Barron Gosnell, M.D.”

At his federal sentencing, Gosnell revealed that he had written to federal prison officials and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder proposing that he be allowed to use his expertise in narcotics rehabilitation – he ran a Mantua halfway house for addicts in the 1960s – to help other inmates while serving his prison term.

Just two problems with Gosnell’s idea. First, he will be serving his sentence in the Pennsylvania prison system, not the federal government’s. And second, Gosnell has waived his right to appeal. In the Pennsylvania murder trial, Gosnell agreed to waive his appellate rights after being found guilty of first-degree murder so he would avoid a possible death penalty. In the federal drug case, he waived his appellate rights as part of his guilty plea agreement.

On Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Natali filed a motion with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit asking the court to enforce Gosnell’s appellate waiver and dismiss the appeal “because the waiver was entered knowingly and voluntarily, and there is no apparent miscarriage of justice.”

“Further, to assure the government the fruit of its bargain -- the promise that the government would not be required to devote its resources to defend an appeal – the government requests that the briefing  schedule in this case be withheld or stayed pending the disposition of this motion,” Natali wrote.

Criminal defense attorney Jack McMahon, who represented Gosnell in the state and federal cases, was not immediately available for comment about Gosnell’s appeal or whether he would begin representing him in that proceeding.

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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 jslobodzian@phillynews.com. Reach Joseph A. at jslobodzian@phillynews.com.

Joseph A. Slobodzian
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