March 16, 2013

New judge named to preside in 'Whitey' Bulger case

An appeals court had removed the previous judge, who is a former federal prosecutor.

The Associated Press

BOSTON – A new judge was named to preside over the murder trial of former mobster James "Whitey" Bulger on Friday, a day after the previous judge was removed to eliminate any appearance of bias.

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James "Whitey" Bulger

AP

The clerk of the federal court announced the appointment of U.S. District Judge Denise J. Casper to oversee the case. Casper was randomly selected, according to a court notice.

On Thursday, a federal appeals court removed Judge Richard Stearns from the case, citing his background as a former federal prosecutor.

Stearns worked that job in the 1980s, when Bulger was an FBI informant and authorities say he was committing crimes. Bulger, 83, is awaiting trial on charges of playing a role in 19 murders in the 1970s and '80s.

Bulger, who ran the Winter Hill Gang, fled Boston in the mid-1990s and remained a fugitive until June 2011, when he was captured in Santa Monica, Calif., with his longtime girlfriend. He claims another federal prosecutor who worked on an organized crime strike force in the same office as Stearns gave him immunity from his crimes.

Stearns argued there was no connection between his job and the strike force and he knew nothing about its investigation of Bulger.

But the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals ruled a reasonable person might question whether Stearns could remain impartial, given that he supervised prosecutorial activities during some of the time in question.

Casper also has worked as a federal prosecutor in Boston, between 1999 and 2005, after Bulger fled. Casper later oversaw daily operations at the Middlesex district attorney's office, before her 2010 confirmation to the federal bench.

On Thursday, after the appeals court ruling, Bulger's attorneys told The Boston Globe they had no concerns about any other judge on the federal bench in Boston and had no plans to ask for a delay in the trial, which is scheduled for June.

Casper is the first black woman to serve on the federal bench in Massachusetts. She was born in 1968 in East Patchogue, N.Y., on Long Island. She graduated from Wesleyan University in 1990 and Harvard Law School in 1994. She is married to Marc Casper, chief executive of Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc.

 

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