A federal judge has decided against delaying opening statements in the trial of notorious gangster James “Whitey” Bulger, turning aside defense attorneys’ request for more time to probe allegations that the government has ignored recent crimes by a hitman-turned-prosecution witness.
US District Judge Denise J. Casper issued a ruling this afternoon after a hearing that had erupted into shouting by prosecutors and the defense. Opening statements are now slated to be delivered in the case on Wednesday morning.
Bulger is facing trial in US District Court in Boston for allegedly rampaging through the city’s underworld for decades, playing a role in 19 murders in the 1970s and 1980s.
Earlier today, jurors were sworn in by Casper, who told them, “Do not make up your mind of what the verdict will be. ... Keep an open mind.” The jurors were released and told to report back at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
A total of 18 people were selected: eight men and four women as the jury itself and three men and three women to serve as alternates. The group was generally middle-aged.
In a hearing after the jury selection was finalized, defense attorney J.W. Carney Jr. accused the government of “a coverup” for failing to turn over documents that allege that the State Police protected John Martorano, who is expected to be a key government witness, from being investigated for ongoing crimes.
Assistant US Attorney Fred Wyshak said, “Mr. Carney continues to impugn the integrity of the prosecution team.” And Wyshak said he took “great umbrage to it.” He also accused Carney of being “unlawyerly” and “unprofessional.”
“I hope this conduct doesn’t continue,” Wyshak said.
“It will continue,” the feisty Carney boomed.
Casper ordered them both to calm down, saying, “Seriously?”
After a brief sidebar conference with the lawyers, Casper said, “I think we’ve all taken a deep breath and are ready to proceed in this matter.”
The search for a fair and impartial jury began last week with hundreds of potential jurors called to the courthouse. The pool had been winnowed to 70 by this morning. Federal prosecutors told the judge that they had performed criminal background checks on the 70 and found that 13 had some type of record. One juror, a check found, had four felony convictions.
Forty people were brought into the courtroom, where prosecutors and defense were allowed to eliminate a total of 22 who were not to their liking.
Dozens of potential jurors were questioned Monday about whether they are fit to decide the case against Bulger, telling a variety of stories that opened a window into their lives, the Globe reports this morning.