BOSTON – The lead attorney for James "Whitey" Bulger pleaded Tuesday to delay the start of his trial, saying the stress of trying to prepare in time to defend the former Boston mobster in November has taken a toll on his health.
J.W. Carney Jr. told U.S. Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler that it will be "impossible" for him to read hundreds of thousands of documents turned over by prosecutors by Nov. 5, the scheduled trial date.
Carney said he has been working six or seven days a week trying to get ready for trial and his doctor recently noticed the effects of the stress on him.
"The stress on me personally has been enormous," Carney said.
Bulger, the former leader of the notorious Winter Hill Gang, is accused of participating in 19 murders.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Kelly said many of the documents Carney is referring to have only marginal importance to the case and suggested the complaints are a delay tactic.
"The defendant, Mr. Bulger, is of course trying to avoid trial," Kelly said, adding that Bulger, now 82, fled Boston in 1995 and was apprehended last year, after 16 years on the run.
Bowler told Carney he should notify the court immediately if he is considering withdrawing from the case.
"I'm not considering withdrawing at this point," Carney said.
Carney said he plans to submit a formal motion within the next two weeks "that will contain all the reasons why the Nov. 5 trial date is so unrealistic."
He told reporters after the hearing that Bulger is not trying to avoid trial.
"I meet with Jim regularly, and he is very intelligent, very well-read, has an excellent memory and is looking forward to the trial," Carney said.
U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns will decide whether the trial will be postponed.
Bulger and his longtime girlfriend, Catherine Greig, were captured in Santa Monica, Calif., in June.
Carney is also asking the court to lift a protective order on discovery material turned over to the defense by prosecutors. He said in a motion filed in court that the order limits him to talking about the material only to other lawyers on the defense team and to potential witnesses. He argued that all of the material has been in the public eye already because of several high-profile trials of Bulger's former co-horts.
A hearing on that motion was scheduled for June 19.