As jurors in the trial of James “Whitey” Bulger deliberated for a third day, US District Court Judge Denise J. Casper urged them Thursday morning to earnestly try to reach a verdict on each of the racketeering counts Bulger faces, putting pressure on the panel to make a decision on all of the allegations, including 19 murders.
Casper had earlier told the jurors they could skip over any one of the 33 acts listed under Bulger’s racketeering charge if they could not reach a unanimous verdict, but she told them Thursday morning, at the request of prosecutors, that they should try.
“You have a duty to attempt to reach agreement on each of the racketeering acts . . . if you can do so conscientiously,” Casper said.
With the new instruction, jurors deliberated through the day Thursday, for a total of 20½ hours over the last three days, and will return for deliberations Friday.
Just before 2 p.m. Thursday, the jury asked to see one of the machine guns used as evidence in the case, leading to speculation that it was nearing a verdict. The gun was a German MP40 submachine gun that is listed in the charge of possession of firearms with obliterated serial numbers, the last charge listed in Bulger’s 32-count indictment.
But it is unknown whether the jury is reviewing the charges in the order they are listed in the indictment; the jurors asked Casper to return to court Friday.
J.W. Carney Jr., one of Bulger’s lawyers, said he was impressed with what appear to be thorough deliberations.
“All Americans can be proud of this jury,” he said. “They have taken their constitutional role with great seriousness and are clearly looking closely at the evidence, evaluating the credibility of witnesses, and applying the instructions given to them by Judge Casper.”
But the family of one of Bulger’s alleged victims said the wait has been frustrating.
“This is probably the worst part of the case, the waiting, the anticipation,” said Patricia Donahue, whose husband Michael was allegedly gunned down by Bulger in May 1982, while giving a friend a ride home. “It’s the not knowing.”
Bulger, 83, is charged in a sweeping racketeering indictment that alleges he ran a criminal enterprise for decades, murdered people, and extorted bookmakers and drug dealers.
He was arrested in June 2011, after 16 years on the run. Prosecutors say he was able to carry out crimes for so long because he was a longtime FBI informant who was protected by corrupt agents.
Among the 32 counts in the case, the racketeering charge lists 33 predicate acts, including 19 murders, as well as charges of extortion and conspiracy to sell marijuana and cocaine.
Casper has instructed jurors that they only need to find that the government proved Bulger committed two of the predicate acts within a 10-year period to convict Bulger of the racketeering charge.
After 35 days of testimony by 72 witnesses and three days of jury deliberations, family members, lawyers in the case, and reporters were left to wait patiently for a verdict in one of the highest-profile trials the city of Boston has ever seen.
Carney said he has seen a jury deliberate for as long as seven days.
“We’ve invested at this point more than two years of work getting this case ready for trial,” he said. “But the longer the jury stays out, the more it shows us that they are as conscientious a jury as I’ve ever seen.”