Notorious: Can "Whitey" Bulger get a fair trial in Boston?

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 28, 2011 11:18 AM
Notorious: Can "Whitey" Bulger get a fair trial in Boston?

By Lauren Keiper

BOSTON (Reuters) - With his reign as the former leader of Boston's notorious Irish-American Winter Hill Gang already fodder for books and movies, many doubt that James "Whitey" Bulger can get a fair trial in his home town.

"It will be as close to impossible for Mr. Bulger to get a fair trial on these charges," Bulger's provisional attorney Peter Krupp said in a court document filed late on Monday.

Bulger, 81, was apprehended last week after 16 years on the run. He had been sought by authorities for 19 counts of murder committed in the 1970s and 1980s, many of them brutal slayings, and charges of drug dealing, extortion, money laundering and conspiracy.

After his capture at a seaside apartment in Santa Monica, California, Bulger was returned to Massachusetts and appeared in federal court on Friday, just blocks from his old South Boston neighborhood.

The jury pool has "surely been tainted," because of saturation media coverage and the mystique around Bulger and his alleged crimes over the decades.

Other court filings show that Bulger himself questions whether a fair trial is possible.

In addition to several books, the Bulger story inspired Martin Scorsese's 2006 Oscar-winning film "The Departed," in which Jack Nicholson portrayed a character based on the notorious mob boss.

Hiring or assigning counsel to represent Bulger -- a question expected to be addressed on Tuesday in court -- will be a massive undertaking with thousands of documents, multiple cases and charges spanning some 40 years.

Each murder allegation is a "case in itself, which will have to be separately investigated and defended, and will include investigation of informants and cooperating witnesses who have every incentive to lie and to finger Mr. Bulger as the wrongdoer," Krupp said in the filing.

At his initial court hearing, Bulger said he could not afford an attorney because the government seized his assets.

Authorities found more than $800,000 in cash inside Bulger's seaside hideout along with a cache of guns, other weapons, and fake IDs.

The cost to mount a defense on his behalf means paying a team of attorneys, paralegals and investigators that could work for years, Krupp wrote.

Prosecutors have opposed the use of taxpayer funds to pay for a court appointed attorney as requested by Bulger and suggested the defendant's family may be willing to pay.

The government demanded Bulger's brothers, including William "Billy" Bulger, a former president of the Massachusetts State Senate, provide sworn affidavits about his financial position.

A filing on behalf of Bulger stated he will not ask his family to pay for his defense and his family has not come forward so far to hire counsel on his behalf.

(Reporting by Lauren Keiper; Editing by Ros Krasny)