Kermit Gosnell, the doctor convicted of murdering babies after failed abortions in his Philadelphia clinic, avoided the death penalty Tuesday by agreeing to a sentence of life in prison without parole.
Gosnell, 72, waived his right to appeal three first-degree murder convictions handed down Monday, and he was immediately sentenced in two of the cases, known as Baby C and Baby D, Philadelphia district attorney R. Seth Williams announced.
Gosnell, who did not testify during his five-week trial, will be sentenced today on the remaining convictions, including a third murder case, that of Baby A, and manslaughter in the death of a 41-year-old patient who received a fatal dose of anesthesia.
Prosecutors had said from the trial's start that they would seek the death penalty because of the "aggravated" circumstances of the crimes that Gosnell was charged with: murder of more than one person and the young age of the victims.
But the district attorney's willingness to compromise on a life-without-parole sentence seemed a calculation about the difficulty of persuading the same 12 jurors to agree on capital punishment after they spent 10 days sifting evidence and acquitted Gosnell on one first-degree murder charge. Before deliberations began, the judge dismissed charges in three other pregnancy terminations.
The trial included graphic testimony that galvanized debate over abortion far beyond the downtown Philadelphia courthouse.
Gosnell's lawyer, Jack McMahon, argued that, in each case, the fetus was dead before delivery. But jurors heard testimony from clinic workers who described babies moving after botched abortions and told how Gosnell and, in some cases, the workers themselves, cut the babies' necks with scissors.
The case drew wide attention from anti-abortion activists, for whom it illustrated the need for much tighter regulation of clinics and, more important, what they consider the immorality of all abortion.
Abortion-rights groups were equally adamant in condemning Gosnell. But they drew an opposite conclusion: Abortion must be safe and available, they said, or desperate women will be driven to other "back-alley" practitioners like Gosnell.