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Guide to Philadelphia abortion doctor murder case

Tuesday - 5/14/2013, 2:51am  ET

Kermit Gosnell's defense lawyer Jack McMahon speaks outside the justice center, Monday, May 13, 2013, in Philadelphia. Gosnell, accused of performing illegal, late-term abortions in a clinic has been found guilty of first-degree murder in the deaths of three babies born alive but acquitted in the death of a fourth baby. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The Associated Press

Longtime Philadelphia abortion provider Dr. Kermit Gosnell was found guilty Monday of first-degree murder in the deaths of three babies prosecutors said were delivered alive and killed, and guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the drug-overdose death of a patient who had undergone an abortion. He was acquitted in the murder of a fourth baby. A look at key facts in the case:

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THE INVESTIGATION

In 2010, federal agents raided Gosnell's clinic in search of drug violations but instead stumbled upon "deplorable and unsanitary" conditions, including blood on the floor and parts of aborted fetuses in jars.

State regulators shut down the Women's Medical Society clinic in west Philadelphia and suspended Gosnell's license.

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THE GRAND JURY REPORT

A nearly 300-page grand jury report released in 2011 described Gosnell's clinic as a filthy, foul-smelling operation that was overlooked by regulators. The district attorney called it a "house of horrors."

Prosecutors said Gosnell made millions of dollars over three decades performing thousands of dangerous abortions, many of them illegal late-term procedures. The clinic had no trained nurses or medical staff other than Gosnell, a family physician not certified in obstetrics or gynecology, yet authorities say many administered anesthesia, painkillers and labor-inducing drugs.

Furniture and blankets in Gosnell's clinic were stained with blood, instruments were not properly sterilized and disposable medical supplies were used repeatedly, the grand jury report said. Bags, jars and bottles holding aborted fetuses were scattered throughout the building, which reeked of cat urine because of the animals allowed to roam freely.

State regulators ignored complaints about Gosnell and the 46 lawsuits filed against him and made just five annual inspections since the clinic opened in 1979, investigators said. Several state employees were fired and two agencies overhauled their regulations after the allegations.

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THE CHARGES

Gosnell was charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of four newborns and third-degree murder in the 2009 death of a 41-year-old Bhutanese refugee who prosecutors say received lethal doses of sedatives and painkillers at the clinic while awaiting an abortion. He also was charged with violating Pennsylvania abortion law by performing abortions after 24 weeks, operating a corrupt organization and other crimes.

He pleaded not guilty and remained held without bail after his arrest.

Prosecutors estimated Gosnell ended hundreds of pregnancies by inducing labor and cutting the babies' spinal cords and caused scores of women to suffer infections and permanent internal injuries, but they said they couldn't prosecute more cases because he destroyed files.

Eight clinic workers including Gosnell's wife, a beautician accused of helping him perform illegal third-term abortions, pleaded guilty various crimes. Three of Gosnell's staffers, including an unlicensed medical school graduate and a woman with a sixth-grade education, pleaded guilty to third-degree murder for their roles in the woman's overdose death or for cutting babies in the back of the neck to ensure their demise.

Gosnell still faces federal drug charges for running what investigators said was a "pill mill" at his street-corner clinic, where they allege a steady stream of people paid for painkiller prescriptions.

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THE REACTION

Abortion-rights and anti-abortion activists alike have decried Gosnell's alleged offenses from the time of his arrest in 2011. The case added fuel to the heated national debate over late-term abortions and oversight of providers.

Abortion-rights supporters have said state and local authorities apparently didn't enforce existing regulations and that women would be safer if they had more options. Anti-abortion activists have said self-policing along with regulations in many states are insufficient and that tighter restrictions are needed.

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THE DEFENSE

In an interview with the Philadelphia Daily News after the clinic was raided, Gosnell described himself as someone who wanted to serve the poor and minorities in the neighborhood where he grew up and raised his six children, who include a doctor and a college professor.

Gosnell's defense lawyer, Jack McMahon, disputed that any babies were born alive. He has suggested that the woman who died, Karnamaya Mongar, had undisclosed respiratory problems that could have caused fatal complications.

McMahon has accused officials of "a targeted, elitist and racist prosecution" and "a prosecutorial lynching" of his client, who is black, and of applying "Mayo Clinic" standards to Gosnell's inner-city, cash-only clinic. He said Gosnell performed as many as 1,000 abortions annually, and at least 16,000 over his long career, with a lower-than-average complication rate.

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THE TRIAL

During the trial, which began March 18, Gosnell's former employees testified that they were just doing what their boss trained them to do and described long, chaotic days performing gruesome work for little more than minimum wage paid under the table. An assistant testified she snipped the spines of at least 10 babies at Gosnell's direction, sobbing as she recalled taking a cellphone photograph of one baby she thought could have survived, given his size and pinkish color.

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