A Pennsylvania judge dismissed three murder charges on Tuesday against a Philadelphia abortion doctor accused in a high-profile case of killing babies in what was described as a squalid clinic serving low-income women.
Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 72, still faces charges of killing four infants and a woman who underwent an abortion and died at his Women's Medical Society clinic in urban West Philadelphia. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Minehart dismissed three of the murder charges after Gosnell's attorney argued that the prosecution failed to present evidence that the infants had been born alive.
"That is one of the elements (of murder), that the baby is born alive," defense attorney Jack McMahon said.
Prosecutors say Gosnell severed infants' spinal cords after they lived through abortion procedures. They also contend that one patient, Karnamaya Monger, 41, died of an overdose of anesthetics prescribed by Gosnell.
McMahon had argued that all eight murder charges against Gosnell should be dismissed. He also said the law required prosecutors to prove that Gosnell showed a callous disregard for Monger's life to be convicted of murder in that case, and maintained she had received the same medications as other patients.
"How can that be malice? How can that be callous disregard?" he asked.
Gosnell has been in jail since he was charged in January 2011 after a grand jury probe, and faces 23 charges including murder in a case that has rekindled debate in the United States about late-term abortions. Under Pennsylvania law, abortions can be performed up to the 24th week of pregnancy.