Aug. 8 (Bloomberg) -- A jury in Boston will return to court today for a third day of deliberations in the trial of former crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger, who’s charged with running a vast racketeering plot including 19 murders.
The group of eight men and four women was sent home yesterday by U.S. District Judge Denise Casper after weighing the case for a total of 13 hours over two days. The jury is deliberating 48 charges, one of which includes 33 separate acts, including the alleged murders.
Casper convened prosecutors and defense lawyers twice yesterday to review notes passed from the jury’s foreman. One note asked whether the statute of limitations might apply to any of the charges, to which Casper said no. The other asked whether the jurors had to unanimously find the U.S. hadn’t proved one of the 33 acts included in one of the racketeering offenses, revealing a possible dispute over the evidence.
The judge replied in a note that if the jury couldn’t reach a decision, it “should make no finding as to that act, and move on to the next act.” Casper also reminded jurors that they only need to agree on two of the 33 acts to find Bulger guilty on that particular charge.
Bulger was captured in 2011 in Santa Monica, California, after hiding from authorities for 16 years. The jury must decide whether he’ll spend the rest of his life behind bars for crimes committed while he ran an Irish-American criminal gang in South Boston from the 1970s to the early 1990s.
Casper held private meetings in the crowded courtroom yesterday with prosecutors and defense lawyers while white noise was playing over the room’s speaker system to prevent anyone from hearing. Families of victims looked on in concern, while Bulger took notes. Some of his family members were also present.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Kelly left the room at one point saying, “Now we wait.”
“They’re leaving us in limbo,” Steve Davis, one of the victims’ family members, said outside the courtroom.
J.W. Carney, Bulger’s lawyer, argued during the trial that Bulger is being blamed for killings carried out by the government’s star witnesses. The U.S. said the evidence against Bulger is overwhelming and that he should remain locked up.
The testimony of the 83-year-old’s one-time associates, including a former gunman who admitted to killing 20 people, can’t be trusted because they cut deals with prosecutors to avoid lengthy prison terms or death sentences, Carney told jurors in his closing statement Aug. 5.
“The government is buying their testimony; the witnesses are selling their testimony; the currency that’s used here is how much freedom is the person going to get,” Carney said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Wyshak told the jury Aug. 5 that the evidence showed Bulger” is one of the most vicious, violent, calculating criminals to ever walk the streets of Boston.”
During the two-month trial, jurors heard from prosecution witnesses including John Martorano, the gunman who said he killed 20 people, sometimes on Bulger’s orders.
Martorano, who was a fugitive living in Florida from 1978 to 1995, spent 12 years and two months in federal prison under a plea agreement for his crimes. He was released from prison in 2007 and agreed to help in the case against Bulger.
Stephen Flemmi, another ex-friend, told the jury that Bulger conspired with him to kill people who discovered too much about their illegal activities. Flemmi avoided a federal death penalty for his crimes by pleading guilty in 2004 to 10 murders. He’s serving a life sentence.
Kevin Weeks, a former ally of Bulger who testified against the defendant and in previous related cases, reached a plea deal with prosecutors on drug charges and served five years in prison. He was released in 2005.
Carney told jurors Aug. 5 to weigh the “moral character and values” of the government’s key witnesses and whether they received inducements to back the government’s claims.
Carney also denied the government’s claim that Bulger was an informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation who corrupted three of its agents.
Bulger last week declined to testify in his defense, depriving some victims’ family members of the details they sought about FBI corruption that let crimes go unprosecuted for decades.
Bulger’s crimes raised questions about the extent to which federal agents wrongfully protected Bulger from local and state authorities for years before he disappeared, letting him kill and steal in exchange for tips about a bigger FBI target that he was associated with, the Patriarca Family organized crime group.
The relationship came to an end when Bulger went into hiding in 1994, tipped off about impending charges. The warning came from his longtime FBI handler, Special Agent John Connolly, who’s now serving 50 years in prison for crimes linked to Bulger, including murder.
The case is U.S. v. Weeks, 99-cr-10371, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at firstname.lastname@example.org.