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'Whitey' Bulger Asks Supreme Court To Hear His Appeal

In this courtroom sketch, James "Whitey" Bulger sits at his 2013 sentencing hearing in federal court. (Jane Flavell Collins/AP)
In this courtroom sketch, James "Whitey" Bulger sits at his 2013 sentencing hearing in federal court. (Jane Flavell Collins/AP)
This article is more than 4 years old.

Boston gangster James "Whitey" Bulger is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal of his case.

Bulger was convicted in 2013 on racketeering charges for playing a role in 11 murders and committing a litany of other crimes. He's currently serving a life sentence.

Hank Brennan, Bulger's attorney, told WBUR in an interview on Wednesday that his client did not receive a fair trial because Bulger was not allowed to discuss his claim that a now-deceased federal prosecutor had granted him immunity.

"For him to get on the stand and implicate himself, certainly he should be able to talk about law enforcement in detail, and the prosecutors didn't want that and they tried vigorously to hide that and they were successful," Brennan said. "I don't think that's the idea of a fair trial."

The Supreme Court generally agrees to hear only a small percentage of the thousands of cases it's asked to review each year.

Brennan admits that his request is a long shot.

"There's very little hope. It's like catching lightning in a bottle," Brennan said. "But the idea that someone has the right to defend them self in this country no matter who they are, even James Bulger, is of such importance that I don't think I could pass on the idea."

In March, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied Bulger's appeal and found that his trial was fair.

A three-judge panel of the court found that Bulger had not shown that his right to a fair trial was violated when a judge barred him from testifying about his immunity claim. The trial judge said Bulger had not offered any hard evidence that such an agreement existed.

Bulger, now 86, led a notoriously violent gang from the 1970s through the early 1990s. He fled Boston in 1994 after an FBI agent tipped him that he was about to be indicted.

Bulger remained a fugitive until 2011, when he was captured in Santa Monica, California.

With reporting by WBUR's David Boeri and the Associated Press

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