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Jury gets case in mob trial of Whitey Bulger

In a courtroom sketch, James "Whitey" Bulger, right, listens to defense attorney J.W. Carney Jr. during closing arguments Monday. Jane Flavell Collins / AP

Jurors began deliberating Tuesday in the federal murder and extortion trial of James "Whitey" Bulger, the reputed Boston mob boss who was one of the country’s most-wanted fugitives until he was captured two years ago.

The jury, eight men and four women, retired to begin discussing the case after the judge gave two hours of instructions. Jurors must consider 32 criminal counts.

Bulger, 83, is accused of ordering or taking part in 19 killings as the leader of the notorious Winter Hill Gang in the 1970s and ’80s. He is charged with racketeering, extortion, money laundering and other crimes.

In closing arguments on Monday, a federal prosecutor told jurors that evidence in the trial had proved that Bulger was “one of the most vicious, violent and calculating criminals ever to walk the streets of Boston.”

Henry Brennan, a lawyer for Bulger, attacked the government’s legal strategy and accused prosecutors of giving favorable treatment to cold-blooded killers so they would testify against his client.

Three men said to be among Bulger’s top allies — Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, John “The Executioner” Martorano and Kevin Weeks — were among the witnesses. They said they murdered rivals and suspected turncoats on orders from Bulger.

Bulger’s defense team has described him as a drug dealer and loan shark, but not a kingpin. The trial included sordid and graphic testimony about strangulations and hit men, and was been punctuated with profane outbursts from the defendant.

Bulger could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of the murders but, given his age, any guilty verdict would be an effective life sentence.