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Philadelphia abortion doctor case goes to jury

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Kermit Gosnell Kermit Gosnell
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Philadelphia (CNN) -- Jurors on Tuesday began deliberations in the murder trial of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell.

Gosnell, 72, is accused of killing babies by using scissors to cut their spinal cords. Authorities allege that some of the infants were born alive and viable during the sixth, seventh and eighth months of pregnancy.

Gosnell originally faced first-degree murder charges in the deaths of seven babies and a count of third-degree murder in the death of Karnamaya Mongar, 41. Mongar died of an anesthetic overdose during a second-trimester abortion.

Judge Jeffrey Minehart threw out three of the seven first-degree murder charges last week.

Gosnell also is charged with conspiracy, abortion at 24 or more weeks of pregnancy, theft, corruption of minors, solicitation and other related offenses. He has pleaded not guilty.

On Monday, defense attorney Jack McMahon gave an impassioned, 2½-hour closing argument disputing the prosecution's evidence, claiming that none of the infants was killed; rather, he said, they were already dead as a result of Gosnell administering the drug Digoxin, which can cause abortion.

McMahon, stalking the jury box, accused prosecutors of "the most extraordinary hype and exaggeration in the history of the criminal justice system," even adding that they are "elitist" and "racist."

Gosnell, who is African-American, has been accused by authorities of preying on low-income, minority women. McMahon argued that Gosnell offered access to health care for people who were poor and without health insurance.

On Tuesday, Minehart spent just over 90 minutes giving the jurors their instructions. Jurors appeared to listen intently; Gosnell took notes and attorneys watched the jury box.

After retiring for deliberations, the jury sent back questions regarding one of the names of a patient and wanted the definition again for "theft by deception."

The judge also tossed out all five abuse-of-corpse charges for storing the feet of aborted fetuses in plastic containers. Minehart dismissed one count of infanticide, the intentional killing of an infant.

Gosnell also is accused of reusing unsanitary instruments; performing procedures in filthy rooms, including some in which litter boxes and animals allegedly were present at the time; and allowing unlicensed employees -- including a teenage high school student -- to perform operations and administer anesthesia.

Nine others who worked in the west Philadelphia medical office, including Gosnell's wife and sister-in-law, also were charged. Eight have pleaded guilty.

Also on trial is co-defendant Eileen O'Neill, 56, who worked as a doctor at the Women's Medical Society. O'Neill, who is a medical school graduate, is charged with participating in the operation of a "corrupt organization" and "theft by deception" for operating without a license to practice medicine.

Meanwhile, a gag order remains in place preventing attorneys or the jury from speaking to the media.

If he is found guilty of first-degree murder, Gosnell, who is not a board-certified obstetrician or gynecologist, could be sentenced to death.

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