Gosnell's Defense: Admission of Defeat, or the Start of an Appeal?
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for Dr. Kermit Gosnell, now on trial in Philadelphia and charged with multiple counts of homicide relating to the deaths of at least four infants and one mother in connection with his abortion factory, has shocked court watchers all over the nation by resting his case in defense of Gosnell without calling a single witness.
Now resting a defense case without calling a single witness is unusual, but not unknown. In many civil trials, especially when there is no jury involved in determining a verdict, the defense often depends on some legal technicality to generate a favorable ruling from a judge.
On the other hand, Dr. Gosnell, if found guilty, faces a potential death penalty, for what the prosecutors have described as running a "house of horrors", and murdering newborn children who were born alive when the late term abortions that were planned for them failed. When the potential outcome of such a trial is death, it is more than just usual for the defense to pull out every possible opportunity to produce evidence or testimony from witnesses who are sympathetic that will produce even a tiny bit of "reasonable doubt" in the minds of the jurors.
Could this act on the part of Mr. McMahon be a tacit admission of defeat for Dr. Gosnell? Many would seem to think so. However, there is always the possibility that this is simply a set-up for a future appeal for Dr. Gosnell to avoid the fate the law prescribes for his actions.
There are hundreds of ways for brutal murderers to delay final execution of their sentences in the courts, as can be seen by the enormous numbers of convicted killers now sitting comfortably in cells on death row in states around the nation.
One of the most favored appeals is the claim that the defendant received "inadequate representation." This is the polite phrasing that the legal profession uses to say "my lawyer was an idiot".
By not calling any defense witnesses, McMahon, Gosnell's defense attorney, opens the door to just such an appeal.
One can interpret this defense move as a validation of the "my lawyer was an idiot" point of view, or it might merely be a cynical attempt to prolong the life of Gosnell. Since Gosnell is 72 years old, it would seem likely that a series of appeals would allow him to die of natural causes, rather than face execution if convicted.
Unless, of course, Gosnell, while waiting for his appeals to be processed through the courts, were imprisoned and released into the general prison population. The attitudes of ordinary criminals toward child molesters and killers is reasonably well documented. The fact that Charlie Manson, head of the once notorious "Manson Family" has been held in solitary confinement for his own protection since 1971 provides eloquent testimony to this danger. One can only wonder what their attitude toward someone who commits serial infanticide would be.
Jim Yardley is a retired financial controller for a variety of manufacturing firms, a Vietnam veteran and an independent voter. Jim blogs at http://jimyardley.wordpress.com/, or he can be contacted directly at email@example.com.