An appeals court on Friday refused to grant a new trial to notorious Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger, rejecting arguments that a jury should have heard a claim that he had immunity.
Bulger, 86, is serving two life sentences after being convicted in 2013 of racketeering and other charges that tied him to 11 murders during the 1970s and 80s.
Bulger claimed that now-deceased former prosecutor Jeremiah O’Sullivan promised he wouldn’t be prosecuted for his crimes, but judges ruled that he couldn’t prove an immunity agreement and it was unenforceable.
The first judge — who was later recused — agreed with prosecutors that even if O’Sullivan, who headed the New England Organized Crime Task Force, promised immunity he had no authority to do so and it was unenforceable. The judge who ended up presiding over trial was also not persuaded by the immunity claim.
With the alleged immunity agreement thrown out, Bulger argued that prevented him from testifying in his own defense, according to court documents.
The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that it was proper for the judge to decide the immunity claim. The court noted that Bulger refused opportunities to argue the immunity before the judge.
“Bulger took a calculated risk, choosing this course based on a strident belief that the court was not authorized to decide the matter pretrial, but ... that belief was misguided,” the judges wrote.
Bulger was the once-feared leader of the Winter Hill Gang. He ran the South Boston underground and spent 16 years on the run until his capture in 2011 in California.
Bulger is serving his sentence at United States Penitentiary, Coleman, in Florida, according to federal records.