BOSTON — James “Whitey” Bulger, a reputed gangster and legendary figure in Boston, is set to go on trial in a sweeping racketeering indictment accusing him of a long list of crimes, including participating in 19 killings.
Opening statements were set for Wednesday morning after a judge on Tuesday rejected a defense request for a delay.
Bulger’s lawyers had asked Judge Denise Casper to delay opening statements so they could investigate an allegation that state police thwarted an investigation into a key prosecution witness: John Martorano, a convicted hit man who admitted killing 20 people.
Hours after Bulger attorney J.W. Carney Jr. and prosecutor Fred Wyshak had a heated exchange, Casper ruled against the defense request. The judge said in court that an investigation found the allegation about state police protecting Martorano to be untrue.
Bulger, the 83-year-old former leader of the Winter Hill Gang, was one of the nation’s most wanted fugitives after he fled Boston in 1994. He was finally captured in 2011 in SantaMonica, Calif., where he had been living with his longtime girlfriend in a rent-controlled apartment.
Tensions rose to a boiling point Tuesday shortly after a jury of 12 regular jurors and six alternates was chosen.
Carney argued that state police should be ordered to turn over any documents related in investigations of Martorano and three other men so the defense can investigate a claim made by a state trooper who alleged that he was thwarted by his superiors at the state police when he tried to investigate Martorano. The trooper alleged in a letter to the U.S. Attorney’s Office that Martorano had been committing new crimes since his release from a federal prison in 2007.
Carney repeatedly accused prosecutors of engaging in a “cover-up.” The defense maintains that a decision by state police to look the other way on new crimes committed by Martorano would amount to a reward or inducement for his testimony against Bulger.
Wyshak said prosecutors have turned over all the relevant reports in the case. He called Carney “unlawyerly” and accused him of trying to impugn the integrity of prosecutors.
Casper intervened when the two men started shouting at each other.
“Counsel, counsel, OK, seriously? Seriously?” she said.