Prosecutors and defense lawyers in the upcoming trial of James “Whitey” Bulger want to ask prospective jurors about their interest in Boston noir and their views on marijuana, among other topics, in an effort to seat an impartial jury to decide the fate of the notorious gangster.
On Tuesday, lawyers for both sides submitted a proposed list of 51 questions to a federal judge in Boston that they would like potential jurors to answer in writing during the selection process.
Many of the questions are commonly asked in criminal proceedings, including inquiries about prospective jurors’ employment and any ties they may have to law enforcement or the lawyers involved in the case.
But some questions allude to Bulger’s career as a feared mobster who was allegedly involved in murder, extortion, and drug trafficking, and the deluge of media reports about him and federal law enforcement officials who have been implicated in misconduct in the case.
Question 37 asks in part if potential jurors have “any concerns regarding organized crime” that would prevent them from serving. The next question asks if they have read any books about organized crime in the Hub.
Question 39 then asks, “Based upon any books, movies, or newspaper/magazine/Internet articles you have read regarding organized crime in Boston, have you formed an opinion regarding James ‘Whitey’ Bulger or federal law enforcement that would prevent you from being a fair and impartial juror in this case?”
The questionnaire also notes that several witnesses who are expected to testify joined Bulger in his alleged crime wave and cooperated with prosecutors in exchange for more lenient sentences. It asks potential jurors if they would automatically disregard the testimony of these witnesses.
In addition, the lawyers are keen to mine the drug policy views of jury pool members.
“In this case, you will also hear evidence regarding drug trafficking, including marijuana,” one question reads. “Do you have any opinions about drug laws that would make you unable to decide this case on the evidence presented and the law as stated by the court?”
The next question asks if prospective jurors believe the sale of marijuana should be legal.
Bulger, 83, is charged in a sweeping indictment with participating in 19 murders and scheduled to stand trial in June in federal court in Boston.