A guide to the trial of James ‘Whitey’ Bulger
BOSTON (AP) — James “Whitey” Bulger is on trial in a 32-count racketeering indictment accusing him of a long list of crimes, including participating in 19 killings. Here’s a look at the case against him, his defense and what’s happening in the courtroom:
The 83-year-old Bulger, the alleged former leader of the Winter Hill Gang, was one of the nation’s most wanted fugitives after he fled Boston in 1994. He was captured in 2011 in Santa Monica, Calif., where he had been living with his longtime girlfriend in a rent-controlled apartment. His early image as a modern-day Robin Hood who gave Thanksgiving dinners to working-class neighbors and kept drug dealers out of his South Boston neighborhood was shattered when authorities started digging up bodies.
Prosecutors on Wednesday called Robert Yerton, who identified photographs he took for the Tulsa, Okla., police department at the scene of the 1981 killing of businessman Roger Wheeler. One of the photos shows Wheeler slumped sideways in the passenger seat, his head lying on a gym bag. Convicted killer John Martorano testified that he shot Wheeler between the eyes on the orders of Bulger, who feared Wheeler would expose a scheme to skim money from Wheeler’s jai alai business in Florida.
Bulger’s lawyers continued to aggressively cross-examine a Justice Department official in an attempt to support the defense contention that Bulger was not an FBI informant who secretly ratted on the Italian Mafia and other criminals. The defense says Bulger paid FBI agents for information on pending investigations and indictments. Through his questions, Bulger attorney Hank Brennan suggested that disgraced former FBI Agent John Connolly fabricated Bulger’s FBI informant file and that Connolly attributed information from other sources to Bulger.
Eleven men and seven women are serving on the jury, including 12 regular jurors and six alternates. The trial is expected to last three to four months.
The defendant stared straight ahead and took notes during the testimony.
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Former Boston FBI Agent John Morris is expected to testify Thursday. Morris was John Connolly’s supervisor while prosecutors say Connolly was Bulger’s handler as an FBI informant. Morris, who received immunity from prosecution, has acknowledged taking payoffs from Bulger.