The lawyer for accused mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger repeatedly said that the former fugitive was never a government informant and that there was another reason why he was allegedly given immunity.
But the lawyer, J. W. Carney, Jr., did not offer a reason for the immunity Bulger claimed was given to him by a former assistant US attorney.
“We’re going to present that answer when the trial starts on June 10,” Carney said when asked repeatedly by reporters about the reason for the immunity.
Carney’s comments come one week after prosecutors released a partial transcript of a recorded conversation Bulger, 83, had with his brother while in a Plymouth jail. In the transcript, which was part of a court filing, Bulger said he never gave information to authorities, but that he instead paid for it.
Bulger’s claim of immunity appears to be his central defense to the federal charges facing him, which include murder and racketeering. It was also the subject of a hearing in federal court Wednesday.
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Prosecutors requested the hearing and argued that Bulger has not only presented no evidence to back up his immunity claim, but that he has no legal standing for it.
Assistant US Attorney Zach Hafer said there is a “lack of legal support” for the framework Carney laid out to support the immunity issue.
Federal prosecutors asked a judge to rule on the immunity issue before trial. Carney wants the jury to decide the immunity issue.
“To remove his defense of immunity from being presented to the jury … would in effect deny him his right to a fair trial,” Carney said.
Carney has so far revealed few details about the immunity agreement other than that it was allegedly promised to him by former Assistant US Attorney Jeremiah O’Sullivan.
Hafer argued that even if there was an immunity agreement, O’Sullivan would not have been able to authorize Bulger to kill citizens.
“As a matter of law, an assistant U.S. attorney does not have authority to allow the killing of U.S. citizens," Hafer said.
A decision on whether the jury will get to decide the immunity issue is weeks away as Judge Richard Stearns gave both sides two weeks to file supporting memorandums.
The family members of Bulger’s alleged victims appeared in court Wednesday to hear the arguments around the immunity issue.
Steven Davis, whose sister Debra was killed in 1981, said that if the judge lets the immunity claim be decided by the jury then the judge should step down.
“He has to prove it,” Davis said of Bulger’s claim.
Sandra Patient, whose uncle Arthur “Bucky” Barrett was allegedly killed by Bulger, said she believes a jury wouldn’t believe the immunity claim.
“The fact that Bulger is saying he has immunity is sick,” she said. “He pulled it out of a hat.”
Follow Michael Naughton on Twitter @metrobosmike.