PHILADELPHIA (CNN) — In the fourth day of deliberations in the trial of a Philadelphia abortion doctor, jurors asked Friday for a description of the babies the doctor is accused of killing.
Prosecutors say Kermit Gosnell, 72, killed babies by using scissors to cut their spinal cords. Authorities allege that some of the infants were born alive and viable during the sixth, seventh and eighth months of pregnancy.
In Pennsylvania, abortions past 24 weeks are illegal unless the health of the mother is at stake.
In addition to asking for the description of the four babies, the jurors asked to be given the written definition of RICO charges, and a property receipt for the medications removed from the clinic and put into evidence. RICO charges extend from the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
After consulting with attorneys, Judge Jeffrey Minehart answered the jury in the deliberation room. Gosnell and his co-defendant, Eileen O’Neill, 56, were not in the courtroom.
The nature of the questions indicate the jury has completed the charge sheet for O’Neill — who is charged with practicing without a license, not performing illegal abortions — and have moved on to Gosnell.
If found guilty of first-degree murder, Gosnell, who is not a board-certified obstetrician or gynecologist, could be sentenced to death.
Gosnell originally faced first-degree murder charges in the deaths of seven babies and a count of third-degree murder in the death of Karnamaya Mongar, 41. Mongar died of an anesthetic overdose during a second-trimester abortion.
Minehart threw out three of the seven first-degree murder charges last week.
On the first day of deliberations, the jury sent out questions regarding one of the name of a patient and the definition of “theft by deception.” O’Neill, who is a medical school graduate, is charged with participating in the operation of a corrupt organization and theft by deception for operating without a license to practice medicine.
Gosnell also is charged with conspiracy, abortion at 24 or more weeks of pregnancy, theft, corruption of minors, solicitation and other related offenses. He and O’Neill have pleaded not guilty.
The babies Gosnell is accused of killing include one that a former employee testified whined after it was expelled from its mother; one that a former employee testified was a large baby boy that breathed before having its neck snipped and was placed into a plastic box the size of a shoebox; one whose neck was snipped after an employee played with the baby; and one that was delivered into a toilet and appeared to be swimming before being scooped up and having its neck snipped.
Defense attorney Jack McMahon has maintained that none of the infants was killed; rather, he said, they were already deceased as a result of Gosnell previously administering the drug Digoxin, which can cause abortion.
In his closing argument, he accused prosecutors of “the most extraordinary hype and exaggeration in the history of the criminal justice system,” even adding that they are “elitist” and “racist.”
Gosnell, who is African-American, has been accused by authorities of preying on low-income, minority women. McMahon argued that Gosnell offered access to health care for people who were poor and without health insurance.
Minehart also has tossed out all five abuse-of-corpse charges relating to storing the feet of aborted fetuses in plastic containers. The judge dismissed one count of infanticide, the intentional killing of an infant.
Gosnell also is accused of reusing unsanitary instruments; performing procedures in filthy rooms, including some in which litter boxes and animals allegedly were present at the time; and allowing unlicensed employees — including a teenage high school student — to perform operations and administer anesthesia.
Nine others who worked in the west Philadelphia medical office, including Gosnell’s wife and sister-in-law, also were charged. Eight have pleaded guilty.