/ 12 June 2013

Trial of James ‘Whitey’ Bulger begins

A mugshot of James Bulger.
A mugshot of James Bulger.

The long-awaited trial of accused Boston mobster James "Whitey" Bulger, who evaded an FBI hunt for 16 years before his arrest in 2011, will begin with opening statements from prosecutors and defence attorneys.

Bulger is accused of committing or ordering 19 murders while running Boston's "Winter Hill" crime gang in the 1970s and 80s. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges – which also include extortion and racketeering – and faces the possibility of life in prison if convicted.

The trial before US district judge Denise Casper is expected to last about four months as prosecutors and Bulger's defence have lined up more than 100 potential witnesses. They include Bulger's former criminal associates, alleged victims and law enforcement personnel.

His attorneys have argued that Bulger was granted immunity for his crimes by a now-deceased federal prosecutor. Casper has said such a deal would not be legally valid.

It took the court more than a week to work through a pool of over 800 potential jurors to build a jury of 12 members and six alternates who said they could be impartial on one of Boston's most notorious criminal cases.

Bulger, now 83, was one of the top fugitives on the FBI's "Most Wanted" list for most of his time in hiding. His story inspired Martin Scorsese's 1996 Academy Award-winning film The Departed. Several scenes from the movie were shot within blocks of the waterfront federal courthouse where Bulger will be tried. – Reuters