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Bulger Pleads Not Guilty On 19 Murder Counts

This article is more than 8 years old.
With his brothers John and William looking on, James "Whitey" Bulger enters not guilty pleas in federal court in Boston Wednesday. Bulger's attorney, J.W. Carney Jr., stands with his client. (Margaret Small for WBUR)
With his brothers John and William looking on, James "Whitey" Bulger enters not guilty pleas in federal court in Boston Wednesday. Bulger's attorney, J.W. Carney Jr., stands with his client. (Margaret Small for WBUR)

James "Whitey" Bulger pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a racketeering indictment that accuses the reputed former crime boss of participating in 19 murders, some dating back to the 1970s.

"The judge asked him whether he pleaded guilty or not guilty to the 32 counts against him and he pleaded not guilty in a very low voice to each of those counts against him," said WBUR's Fred Thys from U.S. District Court in Boston, who added that Bulger seemed "very haggard."

The pleas by Bulger, a former FBI informant, came 16 years after he fled following a federal agent's warning about a separate indictment, which has since been dismissed.

Bulger, 81, escaped prosecution until he was captured last month in California.

On Wednesday, Bulger walked into the courtroom in shackles, and nodded to his brothers, William and John, who were seated in the front row.

John, left, and William Bulger arrive at federal court in Boston for the arraignment of their brother James "Whitey" Bulger on Wednesday. (AP)
John, left, and William Bulger arrive at federal court in Boston for the arraignment of their brother James "Whitey" Bulger on Wednesday. (AP)

The arraignment came after Bulger's attorney, J.W. Carney Jr., asked a judge to appoint his law partner, Janice Bassil, to help him defend Bulger in a case he says has a "host of complex legal issues."

U.S. Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler said Wednesday that no appointment was needed because lawyers for the same firm are allowed to assist each other in cases.

Carney was appointed last week after Bowler found Bulger to be indigent.

Prosecutors said they plan to call as many as 40 witnesses in the trial they expect to take about four months.

After his client's brief court appearance, Carney said he thinks the trial could take longer.

"The prosecutors have had 20 years to prepare for the trial," Carney said. "I've been on the case now about five days. I haven't received a single piece of paper from the government regarding discovery, so I have no idea how long this trial will take."

Carney also said he thinks he won't have to ask that the trial be moved out of Boston.

"It's premature to talk about a change of venue. I think we'll be able to get a fair jury in this court, but if we can't, I will move that the trial occur someplace else."

With reporting from The Associated Press and the WBUR Newsroom

This program aired on July 6, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

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