For Bulger, defense appears narrow
It’s a task that may seem impossible to many Bostonians, but starting Monday lawyers representing alleged mob boss James “Whitey” Bugler will begin to lay out their case in an effort to defend him.
After decades of accused crimes that allegedly involve 19 murders, extortion and racketeering and nearly two decades on the run from authorities, Bulger’s lawyers will begin their task by calling defense witnesses today. Federal prosecutors rested their case against the 83-year-old alleged mob boss on Friday.
While presenting its case, the government called more than 60 witnesses during more than six weeks of testimony. Now the 18 jurors will hear from Bulger’s lawyers J. W. Carney Jr., and Hank Brennan.
The proposed defense witness list originally included more than 75 names, but after objections from prosecutors and a narrowing down by the defense team, Bulger’s lawyers are left with about 15 witnesses to call.
Even after the defense team narrowed its witness list down to about 30 people, prosecutors appealed to Judge Denise Casper that it should be shorter and claimed that many of the witnesses on the list would not provide relevant testimony.
After hearing arguments, Casper agreed with prosecutors that some witnesses would only be able to provide testimony on collateral issues and denied some of those people on the list.
The remaining witnesses on the list provide insight into the focus of Bulger’s defense. Rather than contesting the 19 individual murders and other charges, Bulger’s lawyers appear to be zeroing in on their contention that the FBI let other criminals slide to make its case against Bulger and the murders of the two women he is accused of killing.
Remaining witnesses include current and retired FBI agents as well as Marion Hussey, the mother of murder victim Deborah Hussey. Carney has indicated that he wants Hussey to talk about allegations that Stephen Flemmi, who was her stepfather, sexually abused her. Flemmi denied that claim, while on the witness stand, and said he instead had a consensual relationship with her.
Bulger is accused of strangling Deborah Hussey, but that’s a claim he denies and said Flemmi was actually the one to kill her. As of Friday, Casper was still determining whether Marion Hussey could be called as a witness.
One late addition to the witness list was John Martorano. Martorano, the confessed killer who testified for the government. Carney said he wants to question Martorano about the death of Debra Davis. Bulger is also accusing Flemmi as Davis’ murderer rather than himself.