Three former employees of accused West Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell could soon join him facing the possibility of the death penalty.
City prosecutors confirmed Wednesday they were considering capital punishment in the cases of three workers at Gosnell's clinic. The three allegedly assisted the 70-year-old physician in seven abortions in which infants were born live and viable but then killed by Gosnell.
Assistant District Attorneys Joanne Pescatore and Christine Wechsler said they had agreed with defense attorneys for the three - Lynda Williams, 42, of Wilmington; Steven Massof, 48, of Pittsburgh; and Adrienne Moton, 33, of Upper Darby - to extend for 60 days Wednesday's deadline for prosecutors to notify the defense that death by lethal injection is possible.
Pescatore said the delay did not indicate that prosecutors were trying to negotiate guilty plea deal in which the former workers would testify against Gosnell.
Rather, Pescatore said, it was to give both sides more time to investigate the complex case.
"We didn't know enough, and they might want to tell us more things," Pescatore said.
Massof's lawyer, Jeffrey M. Lindy, confirmed the 60-day extension but declined further comment. Lawyers for Moton and Williams could not be reached for comment.
There was no extension for Gosnell. Prosecutors notified defense attorney Jack McMahon that they will seek a death sentence if a jury finds Gosnell guilty of first-degree murder in the seven abortions at his Women's Medical Society clinic at 3801 Lancaster Ave.
The prosecutors' comments followed arraignments for Gosnell, his wife Pearl, 50, and eight clinic workers charged with him in January.
Neither Gosnell nor the other defendants held in prison in lieu of bail were in court for arraignment. Such is often the case at the routine proceeding in which prosecutors turn over discovery - documents and other evidence - to the defense.
Only two Gosnell defendants are free on bail: office workers Tina Baldwin, 49, and Madeline Joe, 53, both of Philadelphia. Both appeared with lawyers, and neither commented as they left the Criminal Justice Center hearing.
The death-penalty notice - known among lawyers as an "802" for the section of the state criminal code where it is found - does not lock the District Attorney's Office into pursuing death for Gosnell.
Prosecutors often make last-minute pretrial offers to withdraw the death penalty if a homicide defendant pleads guilty, waives all appeal rights, and agrees to serve life in prison without parole.
The 802 notice deadline exists so people charged with first-degree murder know they must hire a lawyer certified by the state courts to defend death-penalty cases and have time to gather "mitigating evidence" to try to persuade a trial jury to opt for a life sentence instead of death by lethal injection.
In addition to seven counts of first-degree murder, Gosnell is charged with third-degree murder in the 2009 death of a patient administered too much anesthesia by unqualified clinic staff.
The Gosnells and their eight employees were criminally charged in January after the District Attorney's Office released a 260-page county grand jury report. The report alleged in horrific detail that Gosnell performed illegal late-term abortions for poor women, in some cases killing infants born viable by cutting their spines with scissors.
The 10 defendants' next court date is March 30 before Common Pleas Court Judge Benjamin Lerner. Lerner handles all pretrial motions in homicide cases before the case is assigned to a homicide trial judge.