In a major blow to James “Whitey” Bulger’s case, U.S. District Court Judge Denise Casper ruled Thursday that the mobster cannot claim immunity for his crimes as a defense in his trial.
“In response to Bulger’s motion for discovery relating to this issue, the government denied the existence of any such immunity agreement, but also argued that even if such an agreement existed, it could not encompass crimes committed after the alleged agreement’s execution,” Casper wrote in her ruling on Thursday. “The Court has determined that the issue of immunity is not an issue for the jury.”
Bulger claims Jeremiah O’Sullivan, now-deceased federal prosecutor, verbally promised him that he would not be prosecuted for the crimes he committed, including murder. Bulger is charged with federal racketeering and 19 murders he allegedly committed during the 1970s and 1980s.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Stearns ruled in March that no one in the federal government could grant Bulger immunity for his crimes, but he was ordered off the case due to a conflict of interest from when he was a federal prosecutor.
Bulger made a surprising appearance in court on Friday where Bulger’s attorney, J.W. Carney, Jr., asked Casper to reconsider the immunity claim because Stearn’s rulings were made based on a conflict of interest and should not be used to ensure a fair trial.
“The Court understands the point that defense counsel made at the April 26 hearing that to rule in Bulger’s favor on this motion would not amount to blessing an alleged ‘license to kill,’ but would mean only that Bulger could contend that an authorized government agent granted him immunity from prosecution in this district for the charges alleged in this case,” Casper said in her ruling.
She said despite Bulger’s defense, the immunity claim could not be used in his trial.
“However, this point does not change the Court’s independent conclusion that Bulger’s claimed immunity is not a defense to the charged crimes to be presented to the jury at trial,’’ Capser wrote.
Due to the lack of a sound legal reason, Casper said the claim will not be heard by jurors, whose selection is June 6.
“The Court concludes, on the present record, that there has been an insufficient proffer that any such promise of immunity was made by a person with actual authority to make it or that Bulger detrimentally relied upon such promise, or that any such agreement was enforceable as a matter of law,” she wrote in her ruling.
This decision follows Casper’s first ruling in the Bulger case on Monday when she said the government cannot be forced to disclose the identity of a confidential informant Bulger’s lawyers asked to know. They argued that they needed the information to impeach a government witness’s testimony, but Casper said identifying the person would not be important for the defendant getting a fair trial.
Casper allowed Bulger’s attorneys until May 6 to appeal the ruling in time for the trial to start June 10.