News Violence

Former Gosnell Employee Sherry West Sentenced

Tara Murtha

West, a former medical assistant at Kermit Gosnell's "house of horrors" clinic in West Philadelphia, has been sentenced to five to ten years.

Sherry West is the latest former employee of Kermit Gosnell to be sentenced for her role in crimes that took place inside Gosnell’s “house of horrors” clinic in West Philadelphia. She was sentenced to five to ten years.

West had known Gosnell for 35 years when she was hired as a medical assistant in 2008.

“[West] had no training or certificate that would qualify her to do ultrasound examinations, administer anesthesia, monitor patients in the recovery room, or do any of the other duties that she performed,” according to the 2011 grand jury report. She was accused of administering some of the “unmonitored, unrecorded intravenous injections of Demerol” to 41-year-old Karnamaya Mongar, the mother of three who died during the procedure.

West pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and other charges, admitting that she administered some of the overdose of Demerol that killed Mongar. She also admitted to participating in a cover-up by lying about what happened and destroying files.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

The grand jury concluded that West was not only “unlicensed and qualified” to administer drugs and to perform other medical duties, “but sloppy and unconcerned as well.”

News Law and Policy

Freed From a Post-Miscarriage Prison Sentence, El Salvador Woman Could Face More Time Behind Bars

Kathy Bougher

Maria Teresa Rivera was convicted of aggravated homicide in 2012 following an obstetrical complication during an unattended birth the previous year, which had resulted in the death of her fetus. On May 20, Judge Martín Rogel Zepeda overturned her conviction. Now, however, a legal threat could return her to prison.

Read more of our coverage on the campaign for Las 17, the 17 Salvadoran women imprisoned on abortion-related charges, here.

Two months ago, Maria Teresa Rivera was released from a 40-year prison sentence after spending more than four years behind bars. Rivera was convicted of aggravated homicide in 2012 following an obstetrical complication during an unattended birth the previous year, which had resulted in the death of her fetus. On May 20, Judge Martín Rogel Zepeda overturned her conviction. Now, however, a legal threat could return her to prison.

Rivera is part of the group known as “Las 17,” Salvadoran women who have been unjustly convicted and imprisoned based on El Salvador’s highly restrictive anti-abortion laws.

The government-employed prosecutor in Rivera’s case, María del Carmen Elias Campos, has appealed Rogel Zepeda’s decision overturning the original 2012 conviction and allowing Rivera to return to her now-11-year-old son. If the appeal is granted, Rogel Zepeda’s decision will be reviewed by a panel of justices. An unfavorable decision at that point could lead to a new trial.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

“I just don’t understand the prosecutor’s motivation for this appeal,” Rivera told Rewire in an interview. “We are very poor, and there is no one else but me to provide income for our family.”

According to Rivera’s attorney, Victor Hugo Mata, the government tends to require “preventive imprisonment” of the accused during the trial process, which could last months or years. This “preventive imprisonment” could begin as soon as the panel approves an appeal.

Although “the law clearly allows the prosecution to appeal,” Morena Herrera, president of the Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto, told Rewire in an interview, “This appeal that questions the decision of the court that granted [Rivera] her freedom is not looking for the truth.”

Herrera pointed out that the witness for the prosecution, a government forensic specialist who performed the fetal autopsy, determined that the cause of fetal death was perinatal asphyxia. “At the trial the prosecutor’s own witness told the prosecutor that he could not accuse a person of a crime in this case of perinatal asphyxia,” Herrera recounted.

“So, if her own witness spoke against [the prosecutor] and said she was not correct, it seems to me that this appeal … is proof that the prosecutor is not seeking either justice or the truth.”

Hugo Mata explained to Rewire that the prosecutor’s appeal asserts that Judge Rogel Zepeda “did not employ the legal standard of ‘sana crítica,’ or ‘solid legal judgment’ in evaluating the evidence presented.”

Hugo Mata vigorously contests the prosecutor’s allegation, noting that the judge’s written decision went into significant legal detail on all the issues raised at the hearing. He believes that a responsible court should see that “there was nothing capricious or contradictory in his highly detailed and legally well-founded decision.”

The three-judge panel has ten working days, or until approximately July 12, to render a decision as to whether to grant the initial appeal, although such deadlines are not always rigidly observed.  If the panel does not grant the appeal, the decision to overturn the conviction will stand.

The Agrupación, including Hugo Mata, believes that the appeals panel will be swayed by knowing that the case is receiving widespread attention. As part of a campaign to bring attention to the appeal process, the Agrupación has set up an email address to which supporters can send messages letting the court know that justice for Rivera is of national and international importance.

“What most worries me is leaving my son alone again,” Rivera told Rewire. “I was forced to abandon him for four and a half years, and he suffered greatly during that time. He is just beginning to recover now, but he never wants to be apart from me. He tells me every day, ‘Mommy, you’re never going to leave me again, are you?’ I had to tell him about this appeal, but I promised him everything would be all right.”

“I was abandoned by my mother at the age of five and grew up in orphanages,” Rivera concluded. “I don’t want the same life for my son.”

News Human Rights

Black Lives Matter Activist Sentenced for ‘Lynching’ Released Due to Overcrowding

Nicole Knight Shine

Jasmine “Abdullah” Richards was convicted earlier this month under a California statute known until recently as “felony lynching," a law that criminalizes “taking by means of a riot of another person from the lawful custody of a peace officer.”

California Black Lives Matter activist Jasmine “Abdullah” Richards, who was sentenced to 90 days in jail on a felony charge of “lynching,” was released Saturday from Lynwood’s Century Regional Detention Facility due to jail overcrowding, a Black Lives Matter organizer told Rewire Tuesday.

“Her release is hugely important to Black Lives Matter as she is one of our core activists and lead for Black Lives Matter, Pasadena chapter,” said Melina Abdullah, a Black Lives Matter organizer who said she met Richards nearly two years ago in Ferguson, where the death of the unarmed Black man Michael Brown galvanized activists across the nation.

Richards was convicted earlier this month under a California statute known until recently as “felony lynching,” a law that criminalizes “taking by means of a riot of another person from the lawful custody of a peace officer.” Under the law, two or more people are defined as a “riot.”

The charges stem from when Richards, founder of Black Lives Matter Pasadena, attempted to intervene in a woman’s arrest following a Black Lives Matter peace march last August.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

Abdullah explained to Rewire that Richards had a protest-related misdemeanor charge that had to be paid at the time of her release.

On June 7, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elaine Lu sentenced 29-year-old Richards to 90 days in county jail, with 18 days of credit for time served; three years of probation; and a year of anger management.

“The fact that she was also sentenced to three years probation … is clearly an attempt to hinder her activism,” Abdullah told Rewire Tuesday by email. “We will appeal her conviction and the movement will not be deterred, but will redouble our commitment to ending state-sanctioned violence.”

Activists earlier this month denounced the sentence as a “mockery of our justice system.” More than 200 activists rallied outside the courthouse during the sentencing, according to reports, clapping and chanting “Free Jasmine.”

Activists had called Richards’ arrest a “perverse” application of a law “intended to stop lynch mobs from forcibly removing detainees from police custody and engaging in public murders of Black people.” An online petition urging Lu to free Richards had gathered more than 80,000 signatures by the time of the sentencing.

Richards was the “first African-American ever to be convicted of the charge” of lynching in the United States, according to Pasadena Now. Activists called Richards the Black Lives Matter movement’s first political prisoner.

“To take this law, that was used allegedly to protect Black people from being lynched, and to turn around and use this law against a Black person who is actually speaking about the lynchings, the serial lynchings, that are going on at the hands of police, not just in Pasadena, but all over this country, is more than ironic, it’s disgusting,” Richards’ attorney, Nana Gyamfi, told Democracy Now! prior to the sentencing.

After the sentencing, Richards addressed the crowd gathered outside the Pasadena courthouse via her attorney’s speakerphone, saying “Thank you guys,” and “I love everybody.”

Richards was arrested two days after a Black Lives Matter peace march, when authorities said she tried to intervene as police officers apprehended a young Black woman in the park. Richards was a key organizer of the march, where activists were demanding justice for Kendrec McDade, an unarmed 19-year-old Black teenager who was shot and killed by Pasadena police in 2012.

Video of the incident shows Richards and other activists trying to intercede on the woman’s behalf, with voices that can be heard saying to authorities, “she’s only 130 pounds” and “she’s a petite girl.”

Pasadena police Lt. Tracey Ibarra said, “When the officers attempted to detain her [the suspect] then part of the Black Lives Matter protest group attempted to intercede,” as Pasadena Now reported last September.

Richards was initially charged with inciting a riot, delaying and obstructing peace officers, child endangerment, and felony lynching, but all but the lynching charge was dropped before the trial.

Her attorney said she was convicted by a jury that was about half white, with no Black jurors, though Black people making up 13 percent of the population in Pasadena and 8 percent in Los Angeles County.