Editor’s note: This article was shared by our contributor Victoria Garaitonandia Gisondi, who recently sat in on a portion of the Kermit Gosnell murder trial. Please note that Victoria is sharing her private opinions in this piece and that it is not intended to be a news account. Please join me in praying for the sanctity and protection of every human life and for justice in this case. LMH
Ever since I found out about the arrest of West Philadelphia abortion doctor Gosnell two years ago, he has been on my mind. He was charged with the murder of at least one woman and several babies born alive. I felt burdened to pray for him. This was before I had read the Grand Jury Report and before I knew any details. I still pray for him but it is harder to do.
When I became aware that the trial was local enough that I could participate in it, I felt compelled to be there for the closing arguments and I brought my teenage daughters. They are old enough to experience the reality of abortion and, because my eldest is a top debater in her school and considering law, this would be a good way to see how attorneys do their job.
I did a little research and found out the location of the trial and the train schedule and we left on the early train Monday morning. We showed up to the courthouse and got caught up in the jury crowd who happened to be checking in when we arrived. After a few mishaps and metal tweezers in my purse, we finally got through security.
The court room was a small and windowless stuffy room on the third floor of the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia. The seating was not unlike the wooden pews in a church building. We took seats just behind the journalists and looked around. My eyes landed on two courtroom artists finishing some expert chalk pastels of the defending attorneys. I wondered if they were working from memory since the trial had not yet started.
I spotted the back of Father Frank Pavone’s head and Bryan Kemper, one the founder and the other the director of Priests For Life. I recognized Bryan from his Facebook pictures and flesh-colored gauge ear piercings. I introduced myself and asked him to introduce me to my hero, Father Frank.
Father Frank kindly stopped talking to an important looking man sitting next to him and made my acquaintance. When I told him my 2 daughters were with me he excused himself and said he wanted to meet them. He came back to our seats to introduce himself to Veronica and Isabel. I was very touched by this and I suspect he cares very much about what young people think. During the breaks he looked back several times and I bet he would have wanted to hear what Vero and Izzy’s thoughts were as the trial progressed. Unfortunately we didn’t stay until the end.
The court room holds about 70 and slowly filled to capacity. About four young women dressed in business attire sat in front of us and told us they were attorneys for AUL- Americans United for Life. One was named Veronica so I teasingly nudged my Veronica and told her she was looking at her future.
The trial got to a late start. When Gosnell entered and sat down Veronica confessed that her spirit felt overwhelmingly sad for him and she had to hold back tears. Prayers instantly filled her heart for him. Isabel turned to me and asked, “Is that him?” I told her yes. I knew she was wondering how we could be sitting so close to a serial killer who looked like he could be somebody’s grandfather. He’s an ordinary looking elderly black man.
The jury, which was comprised of mostly middle aged men and women both black and white filed in.
O’Neill’s lawyer went first. O’Neill practiced medicine without a license and is charged with murder for the death Mongar, the woman who died of an overdose at the hands of the Gosnell staff. The attorney argued that people were paying for services that were rendered and not necessarily a license and he compared it to the services of a barber. For example, if you got your hair cut and were satisfied but later found out the barber was not licensed; you would not be able to say that something had been stolen from you. His entire defense consisted of dismantling the credibility of any witness testimony against O’Neill. It was clear that O’Neill wanted to be considered entirely separate from Gosnell.
The jury took a small break to deliberate at which point I spotted the lovely Fox News personality Kimberly Guilfoyle decked out in a lime green dress. Her gaze swept the courtroom and then she walked out. I was pretty excited.
McMahon defended Gosnell next. I recognized him from having seen him on the news. He is a bald man in his 60’s with a pinched face that gets red when he gets worked up. He was having serious coughing fits for a good while before trial began but they settled down when he started speaking.
He flattered the jury for their faithful service and reminded them of their obligation and duty to be honest and objective and to consider if there is reasonable doubt in this case. He told them that the burden of the loss of freedom was in their hands. At this point my 14 year old leaned and whispered that it was a contradiction to talk about freedom when the babies’ freedom had not been considered.
McMahon argued that the jury’s job was not to prove that Gosnell was innocent but to consider that there was a reasonable doubt to think he might not be guilty. If all they could conclude was that the babies “MAY have been” alive then they would be violating their oath if they didn’t consider that reasonable doubt.
He agreed that abortion is an ugly bloody thing and compared it to his knee replacement which he called a violent bloody procedure.
As he spoke, his voice grew louder and more passionate, expounding on how from the beginning nobody ever presumed on Gosnell’s innocence but the opposite. The media unfairly used terms like House of Horrors to describe his practice and never gave Gosnell a fair shake. (I can hear the violins now).
According to McMahon a tsunami of political rhetoric was created to manipulate and distract the jury. The jury was challenged to stand strong, to show character, courage, truth and independence against the rhetoric created by media and politics. He claimed that the witnesses who had pleaded guilty to murder had been swept in by the tsunami and framed by the government and had done so out of fear.
Two year old abortion instruments and a beat up bloody chair had been taken from the clinic and had been sitting in a closet collecting dust for two years awaiting for the trial. These were placed front and center of the jury to sway them and prey on their fears, McMahon complained.
He showed slides of a clean clinic with a decent waiting room and procedure rooms and explained that the question of whether his clinic was clean or not did not make Gosnell a murderer and that murder could happen in the cleanest of places. ( I agreed with him on that point and considered the hypocrisy of this trial. Aren’t all abortionists equally guilty?) I did wonder if the pictures had been taken after the clinic had been cleaned up because they were inconsistent with the grand jury’s report of what they had seen; bloody walls, cat feces, dirty bloody instruments etc.
Gosnell was a good guy, said McMahon. He gave poor women access to health care and never turned anybody who couldn’t pay away. He actually helped women, trained them in medicine and gave them jobs. (Um, really? He illegally employed a 15 yr old to work excessive hours and grossly underpaid her! What a guy!)
McMahon contested that we privileged folk couldn’t possibly understand what it’s like to be desperate and uninsured. Did a dirty fish tank, dirty re-used catheter or cats roaming a clinic make him a murderer? No! Hospital abortionists don’t get prosecuted and this is clearly a case of the elitist prejudice against a black Gosnell and those who look down their noses at West Philly. (I looked over to the jury to see if their expressions gave away any distaste for this overt play of the race card but they all had their poker faces on.)
Just last week, Alveda King, Martin Luther King Junior’s niece, lambasted these ludicrous claims in the media and reminded the public that Gosnell was the one who discriminated against minorities, performing their abortions in the dingier dirtier downstairs rooms and giving white women preferential treatment in the upstairs rooms.
McMahon spent most of his time trying to dismantle any credibility against the main witness, a staff member at the clinic, Kareema Cross, calling her Forrest Gump for being all over the place. He argued that she couldn’t be objective because of a falling out with Gosnell and that when she had been given the opportunity to speak the first time she didn’t divulge any information on babies she had allegedly see born alive. Clearly she had changed her witness to suit her best interests.
At this point the prosecution grew angry and objected calling for a sidebar. It was agreed that they would have their chance to respond later.
After casting doubt on Kareema’s testimony, McMahon went through the painstaking process of trying to prove that each baby in question had been born dead. The mothers’ abdomens’ had been injected with digoxin which was a full proof method of causing fetal demise. That’s how he stated it but as the borage of crap continued out of his mouth he started resorting to words like “kill” and “baby”. He claimed that doctors agreed that the purpose of the digoxin was to “kill the baby right” which means in utero.
I want to pause here and point out that this is what our culture has come to. I realized that I was sitting in a courtroom in the United States of America listening to an intelligent man tell intelligent people that there is a right way to kill a baby. This is what abortion has done to us. At which point did the question about the location of infanticide become the criteria of whether infanticide is ethical or unethical? Why weren’t we asking how these children could have been killed in the first place! When did we become so schizophrenic?
McMahon went to great lengths to explain that all babies were born dead and it was only afterwards that Gosnell snipped their spines with scissors. Any movement seen by any staff members of babies were simply cadaver reflexes caused by digoxin. He explained that a tiny arm quiver or a shrugging shoulder were questionable testimony and recalled (his) doctor’s autopsy reports that no lungs had breathed in oxygen. But he couldn’t quite explain away the baby that had cried or the one who swam in the toilet so instead he deduced that the person who witnessed it was lying. And he didn’t mention that no traces of digoxin were found in babies.
Gosnell, judging by all his actions, was a man who liked to cut corners. He frequently came into the office late and only after patients had been under dangerous amounts of anesthesia given by staff members who were not licensed. He didn’t like to pay his medical waste bills, so he let body parts collect. His ultrasound machines had been broken for years and he re-used catheters and spread venereal disease by using dirty instruments. When he realized that digoxin was not killing the babies in utero he induced women to into labor let the babies “precipitate” before severing their spines after birth. Why on earth would he feel the need to sever a baby’s spine if it was dead?
At one point- and this was creepy- McMahon put his foot in his mouth and suggested that perhaps Gosnell severed spines to ease the pain. I saw one of the AUL attorneys whip her head towards her colleague. I had the same reaction. Did he really just say that? If a baby is dead he doesn’t feel pain. Did he inadvertently just admit that the babies were in need of pain relief outside the womb?
Isabel was growing re-faced and scribbled on a piece of paper. “This is so stupid! It would be like saying it’s okay to kill somebody as long as they’re sleeping.” I understood her point completely.
McMahon finished his arguments. Listening to him had been difficult. Our spirits were agitated. We were tired. I felt like I had been listening to a crafty devil spin a web of confusion.
We couldn’t stay for the prosecution’s final words and I regret that. I think hearing an impassioned defense of the babies would have helped us feel better or vindicated. Listening to somebody argue that these breathing babies had not been born alive was an insult to our sensibilities. I pray that the jury thought so too.
When we got home I asked my daughters to write down their thoughts. Ironically, Veronica had to write a paper for her bible class on something that makes God cringe so she wrote about the trial. I took this excerpt from her paper to share with you because it shows not only the culpability of the murderer but of those who defend him:
“Throughout the bible, God speaks strongly against those who murder innocent people, which in this scenario would be a child. In Deuteronomy 27:25 it says ‘Cursed be anyone who takes a bribe to shed innocent blood.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.” This verse clearly applies to Gosnell. His bribe was the blood money he received from his job. Working at the abortion clinic was just a way to make quick money for him.
Again in Proverbs 6:16-19 it says “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” This verses says it all, God doesn’t just hate what Gosnell was doing. He also hates false witnesses who breathe out lies”.
Isabel also put it very succinctly when she wrote:
“People make such a big deal about shooting and bombs and murders, but why do babies being murdered not count?”
We had a lot to think about and to process last night. I am glad for the experience and so were the girls even if it was a sad one. Sometimes we can grow desensitized to the fight against abortion and see it only as a voter issue. It was good for us to be in the front lines and it made me resolve to be more involved in the battle.
Gosnell was arrested and charged for things that abortionists do every day. The only difference was that Gosnell had stopped any pretense and did his dirty deed out in the open and not hidden inside the walls of the uterus.
Today or tomorrow the jury will deliberate and give a verdict. I ask that you be in prayer about it and I will be as well.
Copyright 2013 Victoria Garaitonandia Gisondi