Juror not picked for Whitey Bulger case describes tense atmosphere during selection process

Now that the final jury has been selected for the federal trial of alleged gangleader James “Whitey” Bulger, details are emerging of what the experience was like for those in the jury pool.

“There were a lot of people chewing on fingernails, a lot of tension,” said Marcia Pereira, a 50-year-old property manager from Medway who was dismissed after being one of the hundreds of potential jurors called to the federal courthouse last week.

She described a tense atmosphere in the courtroom, as the potential jurors grappled with the gravity of the trial, the length of their commitment – the trial is expected to last as long as four months – and the impact it would have on their lives, both during the trial and beyond.

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“You’re thinking, ‘How do I balance my kids, my job, a vacation that’s already planned?’ And you’re doing this while looking at a person in front of you who has been charged with very serious crimes,” Pereira said. “And then you start thinking, ‘Is there an active mob presence? Do I need to be worried about my safety? Do I watch too many movies?’ Whether it’s warranted or not, it’s human nature to be nervous about something like this. If you’ve read any Mario Puzo, if you’ve seen ‘The Godfather,’ your imagination can take off.”

When Bulger was first brought in front of the potential jurors, Pereira said that some of the jurors gasped. The woman sitting next to her let out an expletive. Pereira herself said her reaction was more of pity.

“I looked at him and thought, ‘He’s an old man.’ My dad passed away when he was the same age, and I looked at [Bulger] and I felt sad for him. It’s a terrible life that he’s lived, and a terrible way to end it. He’s done no good in his life, and I have pity for anyone who suffered at his hands,” said Pereira, who was a member of the first of several groups called for possible jury service in the case.

Despite her obvious opinions of Bulger, Pereira said she had great respect for the concept of being innocent until proven guilty and felt she could remain impartial and judge the case based on the evidence. When she heard that the jury selection for the Bulger trial was to begin on the same day she had been summoned to federal jury duty, she said she intentionally tried to ignore any news on the case. But ultimately, something in her answers to the lengthy questionnaire all jurors had to fill-out led to her not being invited back as the winnowing process continued.

Now that the final jury has been picked – eight men and four women, plus four alternates – Pereira said she had mixed feelings about being dismissed. “It’s a dual-edged sword. It would be fascinating to be part of the process, but the thought of giving up so much time and how it would directly impact my life is something I couldn’t abide by.”