PHILADELPHIA -- For five weeks, jurors have heard one witness after another tell of beheaded babies, snipped spines, and a filthy clinic.
They have seen color photos of aborted fetuses -- some as old as seven months, others allegedly born breathing and moving -- and sat just feet an array of aged equipment from the West Philadelphia abortion clinic of Kermit Gosnell.
Overcoming this pile of evidence may seem insurmountable, but that is the job defense attorney Jack McMahon begins today.
Dr. Gosnell, 72, is charged with seven counts of first-degree murder -- seven babies prosecutors say were born alive and viable and killed by Dr. Gosnell.
If the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court jury of seven women and five men finds Dr. Gosnell guilty of any of those seven counts, it would begin hearing evidence to decide if he should be put to death or serve life in prison with no chance of parole.
Beyond the individuals involved, the doctor's trial has become a soapbox for a variety of causes.
Anti-abortion activists cite it as the ultimate impact of legalized abortion. Supporters of a woman's right to have an abortion say opponents have seized on an aberrant example to undermine the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that recognized the right to abortion.
The race card has been played by all. The Philadelphia grand jury and prosecutors called racist the decade-long failure of state health officials to inspect an inner-city clinic that largely served poor, black women. Mr. McMahon has called the prosecution racist and elitist for the same reason. And black anti-abortion activists have called Dr. Gosnell a "racist of the worst kind" for "preying on girls and women of his own race."
Conservative media critics lambasted the national "liberal mainstream media" for failing to cover the story and last week triggered a flurry of coverage at what had been a courtroom almost devoid of journalists and spectators.
Dr. Gosnell has rejected several plea deals from prosecutors, the last before jury selection started March 4. The offer would have let him serve life in a federal prison rather than in the Pennsylvania system, and let his wife, Pearl, 52, keep their West Philadelphia home.
A former homicide prosecutor who once worked with prosecutor Ed Cameron and Judge Jeffrey P. Minehart -- now presiding over the Gosnell trial -- Mr. McMahon, 60, is a tough advocate whose speech is staccato and rapid-fire and his temper short.
In many ways, he already has begun his defense. In his opening and questioning of prosecution witnesses, he has tried to give jurors an alternate way to view the evidence.
In the first-degree murder charges, for example, Mr. McMahon has argued that even in abortions in which a fetus was born breathing or moving -- in one case "screeching" -- it was already doomed.
The reason is the technique adopted by some late-term abortion providers after 2007, when the Supreme Court upheld Congress' ban on procedures called "partial-birth abortions" by opponents.
According to testimony, the technique involved a fatal injection of the heart drug Digoxin, or potassium chloride, into the fetus or sac of amniotic fluid. After the fetus is dead, the doctor removes the remains from the womb.
"You can't kill something that's already dead," Mr. McMahon argued.
The doctor is also charged with third-degree murder in the Nov. 19, 2009, death of abortion patient Karnamaya Mongar.
Prosecutors allege that Ms. Mongar, 41, of Virginia, was given too much Demerol, the drug used to anesthetize her, by the Gosnell clinic's untrained staff.
Mr. McMahon has argued that Ms. Mongar was a fluke, the only Gosnell patient who died among thousands who had abortions in the clinic's 31 years.
The defense attorney also has argued that Ms. Mongar, a Bhutan immigrant who lived 20 years in an Asian refugee camp, did not disclose lung problems that might have made her more vulnerable to anesthesia. That theory was rejected by pathologists who performed an autopsy on her.