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Court allows second attorney for Bulger’s defense in appeal

James “Whitey” Bulger.
James “Whitey” Bulger.AP File

James “Whitey” Bulger will have a second lawyer working on the appeal of his conviction on charges that he murdered 11 people in the 1970s and 1980s while ruling South Boston’s criminal underworld and working as an informant for the FBI.

The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston approved a request Wednesday from Bulger’s lawyer, Henry Brennan, to hire James Budreau.

In granting permission to hire Budreau, Appeals Court Judge Juan R. Torruella cited the apparent difficulty of the appeal.

“This is an extraordinary case that was a massive undertaking at trial, and there are numerous legitimate and complex issues that we preserved at trial that we intend to ask the Appeals Court to rectify,” Brennan said.


Budreau’s services will be taxpayer funded, as were the services of other lawyers who worked on Bulger’s case.

Bulger’s assets have been seized by the federal government, and a number of people whose relatives were murdered by him have won multimillion-dollar judgments against him.

Patricia Donahue, whose husband, Michael, was murdered by Bulger, said taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for the crime boss’s legal representation.

“Why should taxpayers have to pay for that?” she said. “I think the taxpayers have paid plenty.”

Budreau is a partner in the law firm of Bassil, Klovee and Budreau, which was created recently when Janice Bassil and Bulger’s lead trial lawyer, J. W. Carney, Jr., dissolved the law firm they established in 1989.

Carney had asked a judge to appoint Bassil as cocounsel when Bulger was arrested in 2011. The judge denied the request, but allowed Carney to use the resources from his law firm to prepare for last summer’s trial.

Budreau did not return calls seeking comment. A biography posted on his law firm’s website said he has won numerous federal and state appeals and vacated dozens of state convictions. Brennan described Budreau as an extraordinary and proven appellate attorney.


Brennan and Carney represented Bulger during a historic trial in US District Court in South Boston. Last September, the Globe reported that taxpayers paid $2.6 million for that defense. The sum is expected to increase because the payment did not include lawyers’ fees and expenses from July and August.

Carney is not representing Bulger on his appeal.

The hourly rate for lawyers who represent indigent people is $126 on March 1, according to a federal court website. An appellate judge approves the amount lawyers receive for their services during appeals.

Bulger, 84, was given two life sentences in November and is currently serving his prison term at the US Bureau of Prisons facility in Tucson, according to the federal agency.

Randy S. Chapman, a past president of the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said bringing Budreau into the case may save taxpayers money because of his expertise in appeals.

“They’re not replicating each other’s work,’’ Chapman said. “They’re complementing one another.”

The brother of a woman allegedly killed by Bulger said a second lawyer may help the appeal proceed faster and bring victims’ families closer to putting the Bulger ordeal behind them.

“I think two is better than one,” said Steven Davis. “It will go twice as fast.”

Prosecutors say Bulger strangled Davis’s 26-year-old sister, Debra, in 1981. At trial, a jury was unable to reach a verdict on whether Bulger was responsible for her death.


Brian T. Kelly, who prosecuted Bulger, echoed the notion that more lawyer power will speed the process.

“No one wants to spend any more tax dollars on Whitey Bulger, but this will likely expedite the appeals process and help bring closure to the case,” said Kelly, who now works for the law firm Nixon Peabody International LLP.

At trial Bulger’s lawyers argued that he was not an informant, despite a large FBI file indicating that he informed for the agency from 1975 to 1990. Bulger, who had initially said through his lawyers that he would testify, did not take the stand.

He complained that the trial judge undermined his defense because he was barred from claiming that Jeremiah O’Sullivan, former head of the New England Organized Crime Strike Force, promised him immunity from prosecution. O’Sullivan died in 2009.

Brennan said taxpayers would not have incurred any defense costs if the government had accepted an offer from Bulger to plead guilty in exchange for a more lenient sentence for his girlfriend, Catherine Greig, who is serving an eight-year prison term at a federal facility in Waseca, Minn., for helping Bulger stay on the run for 16 years.

“Instead they chose that they wanted this public relations campaign,” Brennan said.

A federal appeals court is considering a request from Greig to cut her sentence.

A spokeswoman for US Attorney Carmen Ortiz, whose office prosecuted Bulger, declined to comment on Budreau’s appointment.

John R. Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Laura Crimaldi can be reached at laura.crimaldi@globe.com Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.