Bulger judge excuses jurors for pets, other hardships

jury box jurors court
An empty jury box.
Credit: Nicolaus Czarnecki/METRO

One woman said she gets nervous and depressed. An older man said he suffered a heart attack about two years ago. And another woman got emotional when she talked about caring for her dog, which does not have the use of its back legs. 

Those are some of the various reasons why more than a dozen potential jurors in the trial of James “Whitey” Bulger were excused from service Monday.

Scores of people were called in for further questioning as jury selection continued for the trial of the alleged mob boss. Lawyers for both sides were allowed to ask follow up questions after hundreds of potential jurors filled out a questionnaire last week. Judge Denise Casper is seeking a panel of 18 people – 12 jurors and six alternates.

The first woman to be questioned Monday sat down and immediately started speaking before the judge was able to ask her a question. She told the judge she gets nervous and depressed, receives unemployment and gets swelling in her legs. She was excused from service.

Another woman became emotional when she was asked about the hardship she put on her questionnaire. She said it would be difficult sitting on a jury for more than three months while also trying to care for her disabled dog.

“I can see you’re getting upset,” Casper said. “Take a deep breath.”

After the woman left the room both sides and the judge agreed to excuse her from service.

The service of one young woman will be taken up Tuesday after some argument by both sides as to her ability to serve. The woman was asked about a crime she had witnessed. She said it took place years ago in Texas when she was “smoking some weed with people I had just met.” She said a gunman burst into the home where she was smoking pot and shot one of her acquaintances. She said she called 911 and then left before the ambulance arrived.

Prosecutors said they had concerns about her reliability, but Bulger’s attorney, J. W. Carney Jr., said the woman’s answers were honest and didn’t want to see her excused from service. Casper said that juror’s eligibility would be taken up Tuesday.

The 83-year-old Bulger was in court for Monday’s proceedings. This time he wore a green long-sleeve shirt tucked into his jeans. He stood with his attorneys and watched as the jurors all filed into the courtroom before Casper addressed them in the morning.

With scores of jurors deemed eligible, the jury selection process is scheduled to continue Tuesday when both sides can submit a limited number of preemptory challenges and excuse jurors without giving a reason.

Opening statements are scheduled for Wednesday.

Follow Michael Naughton on Twitter @metrobosmike.


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