Jury selection continues in the James “Whitey” Bulger trial. The lawyers for both sides are still going through the questionnaires filled out by over 800 jurors whittling them down so they can move into the second stage of jury selection. That stage will be used for counsel to ask further question of those jurors who were not eliminated as a result of their answers to the questionnaires. It seems it is running at a 50% elimination rate so there will be an adequate number of jurors to qualify for the second stage. The goal is to find 18 jurors sufficiently impartial and not seriously inconvenienced to sit and hear the evidence for four or more months.
It appears no jury will be sat until Wednesday. I’ve skipped going to court the last two days figuring there would be nothing of important to report. I’ll drop in today to get a feel for what’s happening but I won’t return full time until the trial kicks off with the opening statements.
On Friday there was a kerfuffle which caught the attention of the media and some of you. Whitey’s lawyers Carney & Brennan (C&B) filed a discovery motion to learn more about the relationship between Steve Johnson of the state police and John Martorano one of the prosecutors major witnesses. They had information he was being protected by the state police from being investigated by law enforcement.
Steve Johnson has been working on this case in conjunction with the prosecutors since its inception. On January 10, 1995, he arrested John Martorano who had been on the lam for 16 years in Florida; when Martorano first started to cooperate in July 1997 he was taken to the state police facility in New Braintree where he met with Johnson every day. At times Wyshak would show up. He worked the John Connolly trial in Florida in 2008 driving down there with a U Haul. At this point he and Wyshak are close friends having been through much together and they can taste the finish line.
During the court hearing over whether there was something behind the allegation that Johnson may have been protecting Martorano, Wyshak became a little emotional and was reported close to tears. I’m not surprised. The friendship between them, the suggestion Johnson had done something improper that Wyshak believes totally unfounded, the never-ending fight back from C&B, and being on the cusp of the trial he has worked on for close on 20 years all would contribute to his emotional feelings.
There are great emotions at work in the most experienced trial person at this time. Outside they may look calm but inside they are boiling over. Believe me, these are the times that try men’s souls. I’d be surprised if there wasn’t any tears from the toughest of men given these circumstances. I make nothing of them other than Wyshak’s ready for trial and anxious to get the ball rolling.
There’s also another part of this that puts Wyshak under great pressure. He’s the one who stuck his neck out and made the deal to let Martorano who murdered at least 20 people get away with doing less than 12 years in prison and authorized a handout of $20,000 to him on his release. He has to have great fear that Martorano will return to his wicked ways at some point. How will he and his deal appear then in the eyes of the public?
These fears are justifiable. Martorano is a life long criminal. A leopard doesn’t change his spots. His book Hitman where he brags about his murders tells of his state of mind. There’s no sense of repentance or gratitude. He tells us he’s a good man. Wyshak has reason to worry since that book itself was already a betrayal of him. Martorano’s story in the book makes us question the integrity of the relationship between him and the prosecutors. He tells how he and the investigators, of whom Johnson may have been one, contrived to fool the public by making his plea agreement look more palatable by adding to it that he’d agree to testify against people he did not know.
This in itself gives the C&B team a basis on which to question the relationship between the investigators and Martorano. Then they learn a state police trooper has accused Johnson of protecting Martorano. How frightening if true? We’re told that trooper had withdrawn the suggestion after investigation by the state police but try to imagine the heat that came down on the trooper from both the state police and the feds who can’t have anyone suggest that Martorano is back, as he said, at his usual way of life.
We saw that Martorano’s former partner from the old days Howie Winter has been indicted for extorting people. I don’t think the illegal gaming operations have stopped in the Greater Boston area; who’s running them now? How is Martorano surviving? How was it back in 2008 according to his book “he was wearing the most expensive shoes in the courtroom: $700 alligator loafers, custom-made, imported from Italy,” a year after he got out of prison.
I’ll talk more about this tomorrow.