BOSTON (AP) — The selection of a jury for the long-awaited trial of reputed Boston crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger may end up being most notable for how routine it appears despite the notoriety of the case and the outsized tales of the man at its center.
Jurors in the Bulger case won’t be sequestered, unlike some other high-profile organized crime trials. However, the seated jurors will be referred to by numbers, and their identities won’t be revealed until after the verdict is announced.
Perhaps the biggest challenge will be finding 18 people who can spend the next four months hearing testimony about a long list of allegations against Bulger, including charges that he played a role in killing 19 people.
Bulger, the former leader of the Winter Hill Gang, is now 83 years old.
Bulger was one of the nation’s most wanted fugitives for more than 16 years until he was captured in Santa Monica, Calif., in 2011.
As jury selection got under way yesterday, Judge Denise Casper told two pools of prospective jurors that despite Bulger’s notoriety, the approach to picking a jury remains the same.
“Both parties have a right to a jury that is fair and impartial,” Casper said.
She said people will not necessarily be excused from sitting on the jury simply because they have read or heard about Bulger. The “critical issue,” she said, is whether they can decide the case based only on evidence presented in court.
Bulger is accused in a broad racketeering indictment of a long list of crimes, including 19 killings, extortion and money-laundering. Authorities say he committed the crimes while he was an FBI informant, but Bulger’s lawyers deny that he was ever an informant.
Casper told the first two jury pools that she understands the trial — expected to last three to four months — will be a disruption to their daily lives and may even pose an “extreme hardship” for some people. But she said she will have to balance the needs of jurors with Bulger’s right to get a “cross-section of the community” to sit on the jury.
A total of about 450 prospective jurors were brought in yesterday and were asked to fill out lengthy questionnaires that will be used to screen out people with conflicts.
A third pool of 225 people will be brought in today.
Once the pool is winnowed down, potential jurors will be questioned individually, beginning Thursday.
The judge has said she hopes to complete the selection process Friday, with opening statements from prosecutors and defense attorneys expected June 10.
Twelve regular jurors and six alternates will be chosen.