Judge in Florida Botched Abortion Case Rules Public Has Right to See Records
by Steven Ertelt
April 9, 2009
Miami, FL (LifeNews.com) — A judge involved in a Florida botched abortion case says the public has a right to see the records associated with it. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge John Thornton refused to agree to a request from lawyers for abortion business owner Belkis Gonzalez who had asked that the evidence remain secret for a "fair trial."
Attorneys for Gonzalez, who was arrested last month and jailed on two felony counts related to the death of a baby, cited extensive news reports and posts on pro-life web sites concerning the case.
Gonzalez fears ”physical and mental harm after receiving anonymous threats,” her lawyers told Judge Thornton, according to a Miami Herald report.
The records he wanted sealed include police reports, witness and expert statements, photos, and medical examiner reports.
Judge Thornton refused to seal the evidence or issue a gag order and he asked to view photos police had taken at the abortion center, saying he would decide whether or not they would be released.
Two media outlets asked the judge not to seal the photos, citing free speech reporting issues, and Thornton indicated he would likely allow them to be presented to the public.
In the botched abortion incident Sycloria Williams went to the GYN Diagnostic Center abortion facility in Hialeah, outside Miami, for an abortion.
She had laminaria inserted and went back the next day for the abortion and gave birth instead to a baby named Shanice. Abortion practitioner Pierre Renelique did not show up for a scheduled abortion, causing Shanice to be born alive.
Gonzalez allegedly stuffed the baby’s body in a biohazard bag and tossed the bag on the roof when local officials stopped by to investigate after they received a tip.
Gonzalez was charged with the unlicensed practice of a health care profession resulting in serious bodily injury, a second degree felony, and with tampering with or fabricating physical evidence, a third degree felony.
If convicted of the charges, Gonzalez faces a minimum of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. She could receive a maximum of 15 years in prison on the unlicensed medicine charge and five years for tampering with evidence.
Gonzalez’s lawyer, Alberto Milian, tells the Sun-Sentinel newspaper that the charges are bogus because pro-life groups asked local officials to bring them.
"Undoubtedly, this is one of those kinds of cases where there’s a special interest to try to push a prosecution," he said. "All I can tell you is we stand on our plea of not guilty, and we’ll have to see what is being alleged."
Gonzalez is on probation currently and free on a $50,000 bond. She was released from the Miami-Dade jail following her posting bail after her arrest.
Attorneys for Williams wanted officials to file murder charges related to Shanice’s death.
But Ed Griffith, a spokesman for the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, said investigators were unable to precisely determine the reasons for the baby’s death and whether Gonzalez was directly responsible.
"If we can’t prove that the actions of Belkis Gonzalez were the cause of the infant’s death, ethically, we cannot charge her with murder or manslaughter," Griffith said.
The baby’s body had decomposed by the time authorities found it a week later, Griffith said.
Tom Pennekamp, Sycloria Williams’ Miami-based attorney, is moving ahead with his wrongful death lawsuit.
He believes the case "is clearly a homicide" and the lawsuit alleges Gonzalez was responsible for the baby’s death and that the emotional trauma William faced afterwards prompted the lawsuit.
"This woman came face to face with a baby," he said. Witnessing a baby being thrown away is "not what she signed up for," he said.
The abortion practitioner in the case, Pierre Renelique, saw the Board of Medicine revoke his medical license in February.
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