A year after Whitey Bulger verdict, appeal still ongoing

Whitey Bulger's appeal is moving along in court a year after the mob boss was found guilty by a jury.

bulger james whitey bulger boston A 1983 mugshot of Whitey Bulger taken at the Boston office of the FBI.
Credit: US Attorney's office

 

A year ago Tuesday James "Whitey" Bulger was convicted of killing, extorting and money laundering.

 

 

But while one of Boston's most notorious crime figures was sent off to prison for the rest of his life, that dark chapter of Boston's history has yet to come to a close.

 

In the year since a jury convicted Bulger, the 84-year-old has appealed his conviction, some of the families of his alleged victims have gone without closure and it's still unclear if he will face charges for murders in Oklahoma and Florida, which have the death penalty.

Bulger's appeal lawyers are expected to file their opening brief to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this week. A deadline has been set for Thursday.

Bulger, who declared in court that his trial was "a sham," is expected to argue that his right to a fair trial was prejudiced by "both erroneous rulings of the trial court and acts and/or omissions by the government before and during the trial," according to court filings.

In a court filing, Bulger's defense lawyers warned the appeals court that the record of the case includes 35 trial days and more than 1,000 exhibits totaling close to 10,000 pages.

Despite the complexity and length of the trial, Brian Kelly, a former assistant U.S. attorney who helped prosecute Bulger, said the appeals court shouldn't take longer than usual in deciding the case.

"The appeals court, they will be grappling with the legal issues, not necessarily with the factual nuances of the case," said Kelly, now an attorney with the Boston-based firm Nixon Peabody.

Calls placed and emails sent to Bulger's appeal lawyer, Hank Brennan, went unanswered.

Capital punishment cases are still possible for Bulger, who is accused in having a role in murders in Oklahoma and Florida, although prosecutors in those states have yet to say whether the charges will be brought.

As more time goes by without a decision, Kelly said it is less likely Bulger will stand trial there.

"Realistically, it's probably less likely, but no one ever knows what they're going to decide to do once the federal system is through with him," said Kelly.

Bulger was sentenced in November and is serving his life sentence at a federal penitentiary in Tucson, Ariz.

A year ago, Steve Davis sat in court as the jury returned no finding on the charge accusing Whitey Bulger of killing Davis' sister Debra. While Davis is at peace that Bulger has been sentenced to life in prison, the ordeal isn't over.

"That part of the job is done - him being convicted. Now you have to deal with his appeal, not that that's going to go anywhere. It's just going to be a waste of the taxpayer's money," said Davis.

Like he did for the pretrial hearings and the weeks-long trial last summer, Davis said he plans to attend Bulger's appeal hearings for his sister.

"I'll be there right to the end," he said. "There's nothing going to stop that. I'll be there. I've got to follow this through. I've got to finish it."

Inescapable

Although Bulger hasn't been in Boston in months, his image seems to be everywhere.

*Johnny Depp has been portraying Bulger in various Greater Boston communities while filming for the upcoming movie based on the book "Black Mass."

*A documentary about Bulger's trial "Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger" premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and spread to other theaters earlier this year.

*Steve Davis was the subject of a book titled "Impact Statement" by Bob Halloran that was released shortly after the trial.

Follow Michael Naughton on Twitter@metrobosmike.

 
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