PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The wife of an abortion doctor convicted of killing live babies feels she's left "holding the bag" after he shamed the family, turned down a plea deal that would have kept her out of prison, and refused to speak at his murder trial, her lawyer said Tuesday.
Pearl Gosnell, 51, has spent two years on house arrest and could be sent to prison Wednesday for racketeering and performing an illegal abortion. Her husband, Dr. Kermit Gosnell, had turned down a plea offer that would have let her keep their house and stay home on probation with their teenage daughter.
Instead, he went to trial on eight counts of murder, and was convicted weeks ago in the deaths of a patient and three babies born alive. Despite the scathing public response to his case — prosecutors dubbed the clinic "a house of horrors" — the 72-year-old Gosnell declined to testify at trial or speak to the judge who sentenced him this month to life without parole.
"You can tell from the arrogance that he displayed — turning down the deal, as well as refusing to speak — he's left her holding the bag in terms of talking to the public and apologizing," defense lawyer Michael Medway told The Associated Press.
"Her name is still Gosnell, unfortunately," he added. "I guess it's like being Mrs. Frankenstein."
Medway will ask for probation so his client can "get her life back." The couple, together for 30 years and married for more than 20, also has a college-age son, while Gosnell has four older children from two prior marriages.
"She's happy that the guy isn't getting the death penalty, but he's where he's supposed to be," Medway said.
Pearl Gosnell and three other women who worked at the corrupt, grimy clinic in West Philadelphia were set to be sentenced Wednesday by Common Pleas Judge Benjamin Lerner. The judge sentenced co-defendant Elizabeth Hampton on Tuesday to a year of probation for lying to a grand jury about the patient's overdose death.
Hampton, 55, had grown up in foster care with Pearl Gosnell. Hampton cleaned instruments at the clinic and worked the front desk, while her husband worked as a janitor. They also lived in one of Gosnell's rental properties.
"He's her brother-in-law, he's her landlord, and he is also her employer. So she was pretty much under his domination and control," defense lawyer Murray Dolfman said Tuesday.
Three other Gosnell workers scheduled to be sentenced for murder Wednesday were also indebted to Gosnell, according to testimony.
Lynda Williams, 44, was trying to raise four children after her husband was killed. Sherry West, 53, had been waiting more than a year for disability after contracting hepatitis C at a Veterans Administration Hospital, where she had been a medical assistant for 20 years.
And Adrienne Moton, 36, had moved in with the Gosnells in high school because of family problems, then gone to work at the clinic for about $10 an hour.
Each woman faces up to 20 to 40 years in prison for third-degree murder but could get far less time after testifying against Gosnell.
"He had a bit of Svengali control over these women," said lawyer Michael Wallace, who represents West. "She was doing about 100 different things for this guy. It was such a hectic operation."
Gosnell had West and Williams — both medical assistants suffering from depression — and a teenager on duty delivering anesthesia the night the patient died of an overdose of painkillers, according to trial testimony. Gosnell was also charged with violating federal drug laws, and is scheduled to plead guilty to those charges June 6.
"He preyed upon them, too, just as he did his patients," Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore said last week. "They were used and abused."
Gosnell had taught Moton and others to "snip" the necks of babies delivered during unorthodox abortions, often before he arrived for work. Moton thought it was standard procedure, and performed the technique at least 10 times, according to her testimony.
"I kept doing whatever I was told," Moton told the jury.