The long-awaited trial of James “Whitey” Bulger is set to begin Tuesday with the daunting task of finding 18 impartial jurors in a pool of 675, an extraordinary number to choose from that reflects the first challenge of the complex case.
Given the epic nature of Bulger’s life, it is likely that all the potential jurors will have at least heard his name or perhaps even known him or his cohorts — or his alleged victims — legal observers said.
“The question is, ‘Based on what you know, do you feel you can be fair,’ ” said Dan Medwed, a law professor at Northeastern University. “Almost everyone in Boston is going to know about it. The goal is to find anyone who is impartial.”
The last time so many prospective jurors were called in was for the sentencing stage for serial killer Gary Lee Sampson, according to legal observers. That was to determine whether he should receive the death sentence. And it took weeks to empanel a jury.
US District Court Judge Denise J. Casper has set a tight deadline for picking a final jury in the Bulger case, scheduling opening statements for next Monday. While completing jury selection by then is seen as highly unlikely, the goal is a sign that the judge is determined to move the case along, legal observers say.
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