Government lawyers want relatives of all of the murder victims that James "Whitey" Bulger was accused of killing to be able to speak at the mob boss' sentencing, even if he wasn't found guilty of their murders.
Lawyers for the government and Bulger gave updates to Judge Denise Casper during a status hearing Tuesday in federal court.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Kelly told Casper that prosecutors want to have victim impact statements — in writing or orally — from family members of all of the victims Bulger is accused of murdering.
However, a jury found last month that federal prosecutors were unable to prove Bulger was involved in eight of the 19 murders he was accused in.
Bulger's attorney, J.W. Carney Jr., said it was the first he was hearing of the request and said he would respond in writing.
Also during Tuesday's hearing, prosecutors said they expect about 14 people to speak during the sentencing scheduled for November. That process could take about two hours, and prosecutors said they would need about 50 seats for family members of Bulger's victims who wish to attend the sentencing.
Casper, who said she understands that some of the family members would be feeling "anger," said that she plans to maintain the same decorum in her courtroom that she did during the trial and wanted the family members to address the court, not Bulger, in an effort to limit outbursts.
The brother of one of Bulger's alleged murder victims lashed out during the sentencing for Bulger's longtime girlfriend Catherine Greig last year.
Besides family members of the victims, Bulger could also speak during the sentencing hearing, but Carney would not say for sure if the 84-year-old would say anything.
"No comment," Carney said when asked if Bulger would speak.
Kelly also reiterated that prosecutors would seek a life sentence for Bulger and expected little debate on that issue. Carney said he thinks his argument on the sentence length would take only about 30 minutes.
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