The defense opened its case in the federal racketeering and murder trial of James “Whitey” Bulger on Monday by calling for the jury to be sequestered.
Defense attorneys J.W. Carney Jr. and Hank Brennan filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Boston to sequester the jurors because of the “unprecedented level of media coverage” and sensational nature of the trial.
In the six-page document, the defense team outlines how the trial has garnered “extensive publicity” and cites several Boston Globe articles written by columnist Kevin Cullen, who has followed Bulger’s story for decades.
The sequester would keep jurors out of their homes and away from their families -- and access to media coverage -- until the trial is over. Other high-profile cases where jurors were sequestered were the trials of George Zimmerman, Casey Anthony and O.J. Simpson.
The defense argued that the nature of the Bulger coverage goes beyond the court’s precedent and that the court must do everything in its power to ensure that Bulger gets a fair trial, according to the motion.
“The articles published about the defendant have extended far beyond mere recounting of testimony and have characterized the defendant in an extremely prejudicial manner," the defense wrote it its motion.
The defense lists more than a dozen quotes from articles that could unfairly influence the jurors. One of the most memorable columns since the trial started on June 3 is one of Cullen’s most recent columns that suggests a game show called “The Biggest Scumbag.”
“The idea is pretty simple,” Cullen wrote. “Each week, Whitey and Stevie go on camera and talk about some especially vile and vicious thing they did in the 162 combined years of their miserable lives.”
U.S. District Court Judge Denise J. Casper said in court Monday that she will consider the defense’s sequestration motion, but the prosecution argued that it is unfair to put the jurors through that during the 11th hour of the trial, according to reporters at NECN inside the courtroom.
The U.S. District Attorney also filed a government request that ensures that Steven “The Rifleman” Flemmi, who spent more than a week on the stand testifying against his former friend, serves his current life sentence, plus 30 years. There was some discussion about whether Flemmi would be eligible to get out of jail prior to the current sentence. However, the request details that a person must provide substantial assistance to the government withon one year of sentencing. Flemmi was sentenced in January 2004.
The defense is poised to call 14 witnesses to the stand, with former FBI agent Robert Fitzpatrick as their first witness Monday morning. They are expected to call six people today and eight people tomorrow, according to NECN.
It remains unknown whether Bulger will take the stand.
First published July 29 2013, 7:44 AM