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Federal prosecutors in the upcoming murder trial of alleged mobster James "Whitey" Bulger want to conduct criminal background checks on potential jurors.

In a motion filed Thursday, prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge Denise Casper for permission to perform the checks, in an effort to ensure that a fair and impartial jury is selected, to determine that jurors have truthfully answered questions on the jury questionnaire, and to reduce the chances of a mistrial.

Federal law prohibits anyone convicted of a crime that carries more than a one year sentence or who faces pending criminal charges to serve on a jury.

 

The motion mentioned other cases in which juror background checks had been allowed, and pointed to the case of convicted killer Gary Lee Sampson. A judge set aside the jury's recommendation that Sampson receive the death penalty, after it was learned that one of the jurors repeatedly lied on her jury questionnaire.

"As the court is aware, trial of this matter will likely take several months, consume considerable resources, and have an obvious emotional impact on the victims," prosecutors said in their motion. "It is thus important to take steps necessary to address potential appellate issues in the first instance."

Bulger's trial is set to begin next month and will likely continue until September. He is charged with participating in 19 murders during the 1970s and 1980s. Bulger has pleaded not guilty and claims a former prosecutor granted him immunity from being charged.

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