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Gosnell faces death penalty; staffers get a reprieve

Prosecutors today filed paperwork that enables them to seek the death penalty against Kermit Gosnell, the abortion doctor charged with murder for the deaths of one woman and seven viable babies born alive in his West Philadelphia clinic. But three of Gosnell's staffers also accused of killing babies caught a break.

Gosnell faces death penalty; staffers get a reprieve

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams (left) is pursuing the death penalty against abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell.
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams (left) is pursuing the death penalty against abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell.

They’re gunning for the big guy.

Prosecutors this morning filed paperwork that enables them to seek the death penalty against Kermit Gosnell, the abortion doctor charged with murder for the deaths of one woman and seven viable babies born alive in his West Philadelphia clinic.

But three of Gosnell’s staffers also accused of killing babies caught a break: Prosecutors filed for a 60-day extension to get more time to mull whether they’ll seek executions for co-defendants Lynda Williams, Steven Massof and Adrienne Moton.

The extension suggests they’ll lean on the trio to get more evidence against Gosnell.

More coverage
 
More coverage: The tangled history of an abortion doctor

“They might want to tell us more things before (the new deadline),” Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore said.

“We are seeking the death penalty” against Gosnell because of two “aggravating factors” — he’s accused of multiple murders and his alleged victims are younger than age 12, Pescatore said.

Attorney Jack McMahon, who represents Gosnell, said seeking execution for Gosnell “makes no sense.”

“He’s a 70-year-old man with no previous record. And Pennsylvania hasn’t carried out an execution in years (since 1999). The reality is there will be no death penalty for Mr. Gosnell, so why clog up the court system with a death penalty case that is death penalty in name only?” McMahon said.

The next court date for Gosnell and his co-defendants is March 30, a pre-trial conference. Just two of the former doctor’s alleged accomplices — Maddline Joe and Tina Baldwin - are out on bail, and both appeared in court today. Neither would comment to reporters. Gosnell and the other co-defendants still jailed did not appear.

Gosnell is charged with the first-degree murder of seven viable infants and third-degree murder in the 2009 death of a patient, Karna Maya Mongar, at his squalid clinic, the Women’s Medical Society, at 38th Street and Lancaster Avenue.

Gosnell is accused of performing illegal late-term abortions, during which he induced preterm labor rather than use traditional abortion methods. When babies were born alive, according to a grand jury report, Gosnell and his staffers would slit their throats or stab them in the neck with scissors to sever their spinal cords.

Massof, who posed as a doctor at the clinic, and Moton and Williams, who performed abortions and related medical duties despite not being certified or licensed, also are accused of killing viable babies. Sherry West, Williams and Gosnell are charged with third-degree murder in Mongar’s death. Four other co-defendants are charged with lesser offenses.

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Philly Confidential, which covers crime in Philadelphia and the suburbs, is written by Daily News staffers Dana DiFilippo, Stephanie Farr, Vinny Vella and Morgan Zalot.

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