August 2, 2013

Bulger won't testify, calls trial a 'sham'

The 83-year-old Bulger tells a judge that his decision not to take the stand is "involuntary" and that he hasn't received a fair trial.

By Denise Lavoie / The Associated Press

James "Whitey" Bulger revealed Friday that he wouldn't be testifying in his own defense, but he said the decision was involuntary and that his racketeering trial was a "sham."

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This undated photo filed in federal court documents in Boston by defense attorneys for James "Whitey" Bulger shows him in an unknown location. The photo was among several that showed a softer side of Bulger, which prosecutors complained were an attempt to salvage his reputation.

AP

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Defense attorney J.W. Carney Jr. met with Bulger on Friday morning and returned to the courtroom to tell Judge Denise Casper that he had finished presenting witnesses.

Bulger then told the judge, without the jury present, that he had "involuntarily" decided not to testify.

"I feel that I've been choked off from having an opportunity to give an adequate defense," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, I didn't get a fair trial. This is a sham."

He railed about the judge's decision prohibiting his lawyers from using an immunity defense. Bulger has claimed he received immunity from a now-deceased federal prosecutor. Casper ruled before trial that that was not a legal defense to crimes including murder.

Family members of Bulger's alleged murder victims looked dejected over his decision. Patricia Donahue, the widow of one alleged victim, yelled "you're a coward!" while Bulger was speaking.

"If you think you had an unfair trial, then get up there and tell all," she said outside the courtroom afterward. "I am so disappointed in this whole trial. I thought that at least he would be man enough to get up there."

Bulger, 83, is on trial in a broad racketeering indictment that accuses him of participating in 19 murders in the 1970s and '80s as leader of the Winter Hill Gang. He has pleaded not guilty.

He fled Boston in 1994 and was one of the nation's most wanted fugitives until he was captured in Santa Monica, Calif., in 2011.

Earlier Friday, Carney said Bulger wants the $822,000 in cash seized from his Santa Monica apartment to go to relatives of victims who won monetary judgments in lawsuits but then saw those awards overturned by a federal appeals court because the statute of limitations had expired.

It appears that two families fall into that category: Relatives of Michael Donahue and Edward "Brian" Halloran. In 2011, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an earlier decision that ruled the two families didn't file their lawsuits against the FBI in time.

Other victims' families have had their lawsuits tossed before trial and some have won judgments against the government, but Carney specifically cited those whose judgments were thrown out by the 1st Circuit.

Bulger is accused of fatally shooting Halloran, a Bulger associate, and Donahue, an innocent bystander who had offered Halloran a ride home in May 1982.

Prosecutor Brian Kelly said it has always been the government's intention to give Bulger's seized assets to victims' families, but he said he isn't sure Bulger "can dictate which ones get" money.

If he's convicted, Bulger would have to give up his assets anyway. It is routine for the government to seek forfeiture of assets acquired through illegal activities.

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