By Richard Valdmanis
BOSTON (Reuters) - Jurors weighing the fate of Boston mobster James "Whitey" Bulger on Thursday asked to see a German-made World War Two era submachine gun that prosecutors said was one of many used by Bulger's Winter Hill crime gang.
The jury's request for the gun could indicate they are making progress deciding on the raft of murder, extortion and other charges against Bulger. The last of the 32 criminal counts he faces alleges the former crime boss was in possession of guns with obliterated serial numbers.
The 9mm MP40 had been among several weapons with filed serial numbers paraded through the courtroom since Bulger's trial began on June 12. Prosecutors said the weapons were seized from Bulger's notorious gang.
Jurors began deliberating the case on Tuesday. Bulger, 83, could spend the rest of his life behind bars if convicted of even some of the charges related to 19 murders prosecutors said he ordered or committed in the 1970s and '80s.
Nicknamed "Whitey" because of the shock of blonde hair he had as a young man, Bulger, has pleaded not guilty to all charges, although his lawyers acknowledged he was a drug dealer, extortionist, loan shark and "organized criminal.
One of the criminal counts he faces, racketeering offense, contains 38 individual criminal acts including 19 murders he is said to have carried out or ordered in 1970s and 80s.
On Wednesday, after a series of questions, U.S. District Judge Denise Casper said the 12-member jury only needs to find that Bulger committed two of the 38 acts over a decade to be guilty of the racketeering count.
'DUTY' TO DECIDE
She amended that guidance on Thursday after prosecution lawyers suggested that the families of Bulger's victims were worried the jury would fail to reach a decision on some of the murders.
"I remind you that ... you have a duty to attempt to reach agreement on each of the counts and on each of the racketeering acts, if you can do so conscientiously," Casper told the jurors before releasing them into their third day of deliberations.
The survivors of several of the people Bulger is accused of killing were a regular presence in the courtroom through the trial which lasted nearly eight weeks.
Bulger's lawyers had argued that he was not responsible for the deaths of two women among his alleged victims. They said Bulger's partner, Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi murdered the women, Flemmi's girlfriend and stepdaughter.
The trial included testimony from former hit men, FBI agents, drug dealers and other witnesses who described brazen killings, massive drug and weapons heists and harrowing extortion encounters.
The case was decades in the making. During the years that Bulger ruled Boston's underworld, corrupt FBI agents turned a blind eye to his crimes in exchange for information about the Italian Mafia, then a top FBI target, according to prosecutors.
Bulger's attorneys deny their client was ever an informant, or "rat" in gangster lingo, contending he paid agents for tips but never offer any of his own.
The gang boss fled Boston after a 1994 tip from a corrupt agent that arrest was imminent. He spent 16 years on the lam, many of them on the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted" list.
Agents caught up with him in June 2011, living in a seaside Santa Monica, California, apartment with a stash of guns, more than $800,000 in cash and his girlfriend Catherine Greig -- a former dental technician who in the gang's heyday had supplied pliers they used to pull victims' teeth from their mouths.
(Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Scott Malone, Grant McCool and David Gregorio)