A US abortion doctor could face the death penalty after being found guilty of murdering three babies with scissors after they were born alive in his filthy clinic in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Kermit Gosnell, 72, was said to work out of a facility resembling a house of horrors, a place that smelled of animal urine and had fetal remains scattered about in jars and jugs.
He was convicted by a jury in a Philadelphia court, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office said.
US Judge Jeffrey Minehart set Gosnell’s death penalty hearing to start on Tuesday next week.
The other possible penalty for first-degree murder in Pennsylvania is life in prison with no chance of parole, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
The jury returned guilty verdicts on the three babies, an acquittal in the alleged murder of a fourth and a guilty verdict in the involuntary manslaughter of a woman on whom he was performing an abortion, district attorney spokeswoman Tasha Jamerson said.
The jury, which had earlier on Monday declared itself unable to decide on two counts before going back to try again, had been deliberating for 10 days.
Gosnell’s crimes have horrified Americans on either side of the intense national debate on abortion.
Prosecutors said he performed late-term abortions in a state where the limit is set at 24 weeks and that when babies emerged still alive, he used scissors to sever their spines.
However, Gosnell has denied this, insisting that all the babies were already dead as a result of the drug he was using in the abortion.
Gosnell appeared “as enigmatically placid as ever” as the 12-member jury filed back into court after reaching a decision and the verdict was read out, reports said.
Defense attorney Jack McMahon, limited by a gag order from commenting on the case, said Gosnell was upset by the verdict.
“Obviously, the jury has spoken. The prosecution should be commended,” McMahon was reported as saying by the Inquirer.
During one operation in the clinic, a woman who had come in for an abortion died from a heart attack after an overdose of anesthesia.
Gosnell’s business, called the Women’s Medical Society, was “decrepit and unsanitary,” prosecutors said, adding that it was staffed with unlicensed personnel who would “practice medicine on unsuspecting patients, unsupervised, and [Gosnell] directed them to heavily drug patients in his absence.”