PHILADELPHIA -- A Philadelphia abortion doctor convicted of killing three babies born alive at his rogue clinic dodged a possible death sentence yesterday in a hasty post-verdict deal with prosecutors.
Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 72, waived his right to appeal in exchange for a sentence of life without parole. Gosnell was convicted Monday of first-degree murder in a case that became a flashpoint in the nation's abortion debate.
Former clinic employees testified that Gosnell routinely performed illegal abortions past Pennsylvania's 24-week limit, that he delivered babies who were still moving, whimpering or breathing, and that he and his assistants dispatched the newborns by "snipping" their spines, as he referred to it.
Prosecutors had been seeking the death penalty because Gosnell killed more than one person and his victims were especially vulnerable given their age. But Gosnell's own advanced age had made it unlikely he would ever be executed before his appeals ran out.
Gosnell's lawyer, Jack McMahon, said his client accepts the verdict and isn't sorry he went to trial. He said Gosnell gave up a somewhat better deal early on but wanted to air the issues in court and is satisfied that he did so.
"He wanted this case aired out in a courtroom and it got aired out in a courtroom in a fair way. And now he's accepting what will happen. He's an intelligent guy," said McMahon, who said Gosnell would now plead to federal drug charges that are still pending.
The sentencing deal, reached after hours of terse negotiations, spares Gosnell's family the task of pleading for his life in court, McMahon said. Gosnell has six children, the youngest of them a teenager born to his third wife, who has also pleaded guilty in the case.
Gosnell was instead sentenced yesterday to two life sentences for two of the infant deaths. He faces a mandatory third life term today in the third death, when he will also be formally sentenced in the overdose death of a patient and hundreds of lesser charges.