bortion Practitioners Avoided Testifying in Kansas Abortion Death Case

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 14, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Abortion Practitioners Avoided Testifying in Kansas Abortion Death Case Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 14, 2006

Wichita, KS ( — More information is coming out about how two prominent late-term abortion practitioners were able to avoid giving testimony to a grand jury that investigated the death of a 19 year-old mentally disabled girl. Texas resident Christin Gilbert was killed in a botched legal abortion done at George Tiller’s late-term abortion business in Wichita in January 2005.

After Gilbert’s death, the Kansas Board of Healing Arts, which regulates doctors in the state, refused to prosecute Tiller for killing Gilbert, saying he followed all state laws on abortion.

Following the agency’s decision thousands of Wichita residents filed petitions with the local courts to call for a grand jury to investigate the case. The grand jury, too, failed to prosecute Tiller or any of his staff involved in the abortion.

A member of the grand jury has spoken with the pro-life group Operation Rescue about what happened during the investigation process.

The group has released more information about what the source has said about the proceedings.

According to the grand jury member, 15 Wichita residents were impaneled to participate.
While the grand jury spoke with numerous witnesses, it was prevented from talking to the most important people involved in Gilbert’s abortion death.

The grand jury was limited to investigating the concerns brought up in the petitions.

When interviewing a representative from the ambulance company that took Gilbert to the hospital after she suffered major medical complications from the abortion, the representative said Tiller’s abortion facility calls for an ambulance because of post-abortion problems about seven times a month.

“We could only investigate what the petition asked for," the grand jury member said.
“We were under the impression that the grand jury would have latitude to explore whatever they needed to,” said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman. “This was not how we were told grand juries work.”

The juror said one of the biggest problems was District Attorney Ann Swegle’s refusal to aggressively investigate the case. The grand jury member said she did not help the grand jury put the case together and gather the needed facts and information.

“She was very articulate but not very personable. She was very good with putting things together, but we did not get the right information," the source said. She was totally ‘out here’ [gesturing away from the group] and we were either going to figure it out ourselves or we were not going to figure it out.”

“The DA wouldn’t say anything unless we asked them stuff because that’s how it’s set up. You [the grand jury member] are the investigator, they are there just to guide you. How do you know how to be guided if you don’t know what to ask for?”

Jurors were also told that they couldn’t ask anything about how Gilbert, a Texas resident, became pregnant. They were told Texas officials were looking into that and they couldn’t seek further information.

One of the biggest problems revolved around abortion practitioner George Tiller, who did the abortion, and Leroy Carhart, a Nebraska abortion practitioner who assisted Tiller.

Both took fifth amendment protections, as did a number of Tiller abortion business employees, which prevented the grand jury from getting more information about Gilbert’s medical care, before, during and after the abortion.

“We couldn’t get any information out of anyone,” said the source. “Without anybody speaking, we couldn’t get any information out of nobody. These people can do what they want to, plead the Fifth, and walk. And I’m thinking, ‘How stupid is this?’”

During the investigation, the grand jury found out that Carhart was responsible for Gilbert’s care on the day she died. The grand jury tried to subpoena him but Swegle told them he was in Nebraska and couldn’t testify.

The source told Operation Rescue, “From questioning we found out the [doctor’s] rotation from the ‘nurses’ talking, and so the week he was scheduled to be here [in Wichita] we convened two days, and she [Swegle] was supposed to subpoena him. Well, he got smarter than us and he never came in. He was never served because he was never in the state.”

“We couldn’t subpoena him because he wouldn’t come back into town. That’s what the DA told us. Because he wasn’t in the confines of the State of Kansas. He was in another state, Nebraska.”

“We know that Tiller was subpoenaed by a Texas grand jury investigating Christin’s sexual assault. If the State of Texas can issue a subpoena to someone in Kansas, why can’t Kansas subpoena someone in Nebraska?” asked Operation Rescue’s Troy Newman. “There is something very fishy about that.”

Tiller was able to avoid testifying due to a technicality in the law that was fully exploited by his legal team. The threat of drawing out the process for up to eighteen months – and still not getting any pertinent information – did not appeal to the jurors. In the end, they gave up trying to interview him.

“George Tiller never showed his face,” the source said. “He got his attorney to give us a little by-law where he could go beyond pleading the Fifth and it could stretch this thing out to up to eighteen months."

"We took a vote. If he did show up, would we ever get any information out of him? No. We chose to leave him still to be able to be charged instead of giving him immunity. The judge would not let us do that anyway. He said, ‘I’m not – there’s no way I’m giving him immunity.’”

The grand jury was also frustrated by a lack of information about who cared for Gilbert from the time she "crashed" at the abortion facility until paramedics were finally called 45 minutes later.

“We couldn’t get any information out of anyone,” the source said about the missing information. “We couldn’t even find out who was back there."

Tiller ultimately escaped prosecution by just one vote and some of the charges were dismissed because the grand jury couldn’t prove that Tiller or his staff intended to kill Gilbert.

“Second degree murder ain’t gonna happen and I’ll tell you why based on very simply – nobody at that clinic intended to kill her. That’s what it boils down to. If someone intended to do that, there was no way to prove ‘I’m out to get Christin.’”

The vote on that charge was 15-0 against it.

The grand jury member said state laws also do not provide for legitimate training for abortion facility staff so the grand jury couldn’t charge Tiller with using unlicensed workers and having them assist in abortions or abortion-related medical care.

That prevented the grand jury from issuing any charges related to the failure to note Gilbert’s changing condition in medical records or their 45 minute delay in calling an ambulance.

“We know of a doctor in California who was disciplined by the medical board for doodling on a medical chart to the extent that his notations could not be read,” said Newman. “But making no notations at all as to patient care during a fatal episode is just unbelievable. How can anyone think that there is nothing wrong here?”

Votes were taken on four various charges of negligence in the case and each vote saw the grand jury divided 11-4, one short of the 12 required to indict Tiller or his staff.