Bulger attends pretrial hearing before new judge
BOSTON (WHDH) -- Reputed Boston gangster James "Whitey" Bulger appeared in federal court at a pretrial hearing before the new judge assigned to his case.
Bulger, 83, was dressed in an orange jumpsuit Friday. This was his first court appearance in almost two years. His appearance for a pre-trial hearing was a bit of a surprise.
“We felt he had a right to be present and hear the arguments made and the reaction of the judge,” said defense attorney J.W. Carney.
Judge Denise Casper did not immediately rule Friday on a request by Bulger’s lawyers to reverse an earlier ruling barring Bulger from claiming immunity as a defense at his June trial.
Prosecutors say the immunity claim is "absurd."
Bulger claims a now-deceased federal prosecutor Jeremiah O’Sullivan gave him immunity for his crimes. The previous judge ruled that Bulger couldn't present evidence about his claim that the immunity deal applied to future crimes he committed.
“I think its garbage, you know, O’Sullivan didn’t have the authority anyways to give immunity for people who go around and murder people like he was,” said Thomas Donahue, son of an alleged victim.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Wyshak’s court statement said, “The records of the FBI and the Department of Justice have been scoured in this search for the Holy Grail, which is this immunity agreement…it does not exist.”
“We are confident that if the judge does not permit a jury to make this decision any conviction that results will be reversed and the matter will be remanded to this court for another trial,” said Carney.
At Friday's hearing, Casper also outlined jury selection plans for Bulger's trial.
The 83-year-old Bulger is charged with participating in 19 murders. Relatives of many of his alleged victims attended the hearing.
“It’s been 30 years that jerk has tortured me and my family and he’s up there asking for help, forget him,” said Stephen Rakes, alleged Bulger victim.
Casper will take some time before she decides if immunity can be brought before the jury.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.