Convicted Philadelphia abortion doctor has reached an agreement with prosecutors to avoid the death penalty: he has waived his right to appeal in exchange for a sentence of life without parole. I have no problem with the conviction of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 72, who performed late abortions in violation of state law under the most gruesome and horrific conditions. However, the use of the threat of the death penalty to waive appeal is a serious concern for civil libertarians.
Gosnell was convicted Monday of first-degree murder after a jury found that he routinely performed illegal abortions past Pennsylvania’s 24-week limit. The testimony in the trial was deeply disturbing with witnesses recounting how Gosnell would “snip” the spines of babies who were seen moving, whimpering or breathing. In one case, Gosnell joked that the baby was so big he could walk to the bus on his own legs.
The case has filled many with disgust and rage. However, the agreement is a serious concern if prosecutors can negate the appellate process and review by threatening to seek the death penalty. Such a waiver can also occur in exchange for a reduction in recommended years of incarceration. There is already tremendous pressure on defendants to plead guilty in our system. Prosecutors now routinely stack counts to allow obscenely long sentences to force such plea bargains. Now, this technique could also be used to cut off any appeal.
Do you feel such waivers should be allowed by the courts?
Source: SF Gate