BOSTON – Reputed gangster James "Whitey" Bulger, a legendary organized-crime figure in Boston, is on trial on a long list of charges, including participating in 19 killings. Here's a look at the case against him, his defense and what's happening in the courtroom:
The 83-year-old Bulger, the alleged former leader of the Winter Hill Gang, was one of the nation's most wanted fugitives after he fled Boston in 1994. He was finally captured in 2011 in Santa Monica, Calif., where he had been living with his longtime girlfriend in a rent-controlled apartment. His early image as a modern-day Robin Hood who gave Thanksgiving dinners to working-class neighbors and kept drug dealers out of his South Boston neighborhood was shattered when authorities started digging up bodies.
In opening statements Wednesday, prosecutor Brian Kelly told the jury that Bulger was a "hands-on killer" who was responsible for "murder and mayhem" in Boston for almost 30 years. Kelly offered chilling details of some of the 19 killings Bulger is charged in, including how he allegedly strangled two 26-year-old women and how he asked one man if he wanted a bullet in the head after Bulger's attempt to strangle him with a rope failed.
Bulger's lawyer, Jay W. Carney Jr., acknowledged that Bulger made millions through illegal drugs, gambling and loan-sharking. But Carney told the jury that three ex-mobsters who pinned murders on Bulger cannot be believed. The defense insists that Bulger was never an FBI informant who ratted on the rival New England Mafia. Instead, they say, Bulger paid FBI agents and other law enforcement to tip off him and his gang when they were being investigated or about to be indicted.
Starting last week, Judge Denise Casper and attorneys for both sides narrowed a pool of hundreds of potential jurors, eventually picking 11 men and seven women to serve. Twelve are regular jurors and six are alternates. The trial is expected to take three to four months.
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Testimony is expected Thursday from retired Massachusetts state police Col. Thomas J. Foley, who investigated Bulger for decades and later wrote a book about the hunt for him.
The defendant wore jeans and a green Henley shirt and switched between two pairs of eyeglasses. He showed no visible emotion during the proceedings.