James “Whitey” Bulger, the notorious Boston gangster accused of committing 19 murders, came face to face today with potential jurors in his trial, some of whom may eventually cast a vote to determine his fate.
“Good morning,” said the fit-looking 83-year-old Bulger, who was dressed in jeans, a long-sleeved navy jersey, white sneakers, a khaki-navy-striped belt, and wire-rimmed glasses.
The routine was the same this afternoon with another group of 225 prospective jurors. This time, Bulger said, “Good afternoon.”
A third batch of jurors is expected at the courthouse Wednesday. The selection of 18 impartial jurors from the pool of 675 is the first challenge in what is expected to be a lengthy, complex trial.
Bulger faces a federal racketeering indictment that alleges that he ran a criminal enterprise from 1972 to 2000. During his fearsome reign in Boston’s underworld, Bulger killed 19 people; extorted money from drug dealers, bookmakers, and businessmen; corrupted FBI and other law enforcement officials; laundered illegal profits; and stockpiled an arsenal of weapons, prosecutors allege.
“Both parties have the right to a jury that is fair and impartial, one that is not biased or partial one way or another. That is, both parties are entitled to a jury that does not have its mind made up one way or another,” US District Judge Denise J. Casper told the first batch of potential jurors this morning.
“The jury selection process that we are about to begin is to ensure fairness and impartiality at all ends,” Casper said.
Casper urged the jurors not to watch media coverage of the case, or to discuss it with anyone, and told them that they should make their decisions solely on the evidence presented to them in court. She told them the trial is expected to begin Monday and last to the end of September.
The jurors, after both the morning and afternoon sessions, were allowed to leave after filling out questionnaires. Casper emphasized that they should fill them out truthfully.
Defense lawyers, prosecutors, and Bulger went back into the courtroom after the morning session to continue battling over pretrial motions; they’re expected to continue to discuss pretrial motions at another hearing on Wednesday.
Bulger’s story took a twist when it was revealed that the gangster from South Boston had been an FBI informant from 1975 to 1990.
In 1995, Bulger fled the Boston area, tipped off by a corrupt FBI agent about an initial indictment. He remained on the lam for 16 years as the revelations emerged about his informant status and his closest associates turned on him, becoming government witnesses and implicating him in numerous slayings.
His story, which also included the parallel rise of his brother, William M. Bulger to be a powerful president of the Massachusetts Senate, has fascinated the public and inspired books and movies.
He was captured in June 2011 in Santa Monica, Calif., where he was living a modest life with his long-time girlfriend, Catherine Greig — and a large stockpile of cash and guns, authorities said.