Published July 15, 2013
BOSTON – James "Whitey" Bulger is on trial in a 32-count racketeering indictment accusing him of a long list of crimes, 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 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.
Prosecutors questioned Bulger's former right-hand man, Kevin Weeks, who said he was a partner in the Winter Hill Gang for two decades. Weeks described watching Bulger kill three people in a house in South Boston, including 26-year-old Deborah Hussey, the daughter of the girlfriend of Bulger's partner, Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi. On Wednesday, a former state forensic anthropologist testified that remains found in Boston 13 years ago were those of three people Bulger is accused of killing. She also showed jurors photographers of the victims taken after their remains were found, causing relatives in the courtroom to wipe away tears.
Bulger lawyer J.W. Carney Jr. suggested that Weeks was a chronic liar who beat the system by striking a plea deal with prosecutors that resulted in him serving only five years in prison for aiding and abetting Bulger. Weeks acknowledged that Bulger gave envelopes filled with cash to numerous law enforcement officials to get tipped off to investigations and stay one step ahead of any indictments. The defense also asked the judge to suspend the trial for two days because Bulger was exhausted and they needed more time to prepare for the prosecution's forensic experts. The judge turned down the request but agreed to shorten the length of testimony on Thursdays.
Eleven men and seven women make up the panel of 12 regular jurors and six alternates.
During cross-examination by Bulger's lawyer, Weeks and Bulger had an angry, profanity-laced exchange after Weeks called Bulger and Flemmi "the two biggest rats," a reference to their alleged role as FBI informants. Judge Denise Casper warned Bulger to let his lawyers speak for him and Weeks to answer only the questions asked of him.