The wife of accused West Philadelphia illegal abortionist Kermit Gosnell is weighing the possibility of pleading guilty, her lawyer told a Philadelphia judge Thursday.
F. Michael Medway, attorney for Pearl Gosnell, 50, disclosed the negotiations with the District Attorney's Office during a status hearing before Common Pleas Court Judge Benjamin Lerner.
Medway asked Lerner to set a new status hearing for Dec. 1, adding that he should know by then whether Pearl Gosnell will go to trial with her 70-year-old husband.
Medway and Assistant District Attorneys Joanne Pescatore and Christine Wechsler would not elaborate in court on the plea talks, and all parties are barred by a gag order from speaking with reporters.
Pearl Gosnell is charged with participating in an illegal late-term abortion, conspiracy, and being part of a corrupt organization.
Her situation raises issues different from those of eight employees of Kermit Gosnell's clinic because of spousal privilege. Under the law, spouses cannot be forced to testify against each other in criminal or civil court proceedings.
Pearl Gosnell and the eight employees of her husband's Women's Medical Society clinic at 3801 Lancaster Ave. were charged in January after a county investigating grand jury described the clinic as a "charnel house" where Kermit Gosnell performed illegal late-term abortions for poor women.
Kermit Gosnell is charged with first-degree murder and faces the possibility of the death penalty if found guilty. The grand jury report accused him of causing the 2009 death of a Virginia woman undergoing an abortion and of killing infants born live and viable by cutting their spinal cords with scissors.
Six of the 10 defendants in the case have pleaded guilty in deals with the prosecution in which they will testify against Kermit Gosnell at trial.
In related developments Thursday, Lerner denied motions to try the last two clinic employees separately from Gosnell and his wife.
Unlike the other employees, neither Eileen O'Neill nor Madeline Joe were charged with participating in abortions at the clinic.
O'Neill, 55, is a medical school graduate who allegedly worked as a doctor at the clinic without a license or certification. She is charged with theft by deception, conspiracy, racketeering, perjury, and false swearing.
Joe, 54, was Gosnell's office manager and is charged with conspiracy.
Defense lawyers feared a jury could convict O'Neill and Joe because of their association with the more horrific charges against Kermit Gosnell.
Lerner, however, said he believed the trial judge could give the jury cautionary instructions that would ensure the women get fair trials.
Lerner also granted a motion by O'Neill's attorney to bar prosecutors from using her grand jury testimony against her at trial. Lerner said he believed the supervising judge of the grand jury, Renee Cardwell Hughes, now retired, gave advice to O'Neill that made her believe she was not entitled to a lawyer at her grand jury appearances.
Lerner also closed the pretrial motions phase of the case and assigned it for trial to Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey P. Minehart, a veteran homicide judge now hearing the trial of three men in the 2009 double murder at the Piazza at Schmidts development in Northern Liberties.
Minehart set Dec. 12 as the date for the first scheduling conference for trial.