June 22, 2011 Whitey Bulger was arrested according to a New York Times Report. On June 30, 2011, J.W. Carney was appointed to represent him according to a Bloomberg News Report. That report, and others, suggested the government opposed his request for a government appointed lawyer,
A report in the Huffington Post about a hearing on January 11. 2012 had the government complaining that Whitey is trying to delay the trial. Brian Kelly the prosecutor was urging the judge to speed the trial along according to the Boston Globe. The Los Angeles Times reported that as far back as June 28, 2011, the US Attorney Carmen Ortiz said in papers filed with the court “The U.S. attorney is committed to seeing that this defendant, who is now 81 years old, is called to account as soon as possible….” It was reported that in February of this year prosecutor Kelly said he had turned over all the evidence to Bulger’s lawyers in August, 2011. The latter report in the Boston Globe said there were an estimated 580,000 documents and 910 tapes of wiretaps and other evidence.
Yesterday I wrote about the hearing that took place on Friday. The defense lawyers and prosecutors are still going back and forth over whether the government has provided all the documents. It’s over a year since the government said that it had but even at the hearing there was reference to some documents that still had not been produced.
I set out the dates to show the prosecution has been pushing the court for an early trial since shortly after Whitey’s arrest despite the immense burden on defense counsel to prepare. Of course the prosecution would be doing that because the less time the defense has to prepare, the better it is for the prosecution. A couple of months ago, in June, Carney was asking for a November 2013 trial date aware of the task in front of him.
I should mention that last Friday J.W. Carney did speak in court but for less than a minute. It was just to note the government’s attempt to muzzle him by complaining that he’s had four press conferences after the court hearings is laughable after its 17 years of demonizing Whitey according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
As I also noted yesterday Judge Bowler is patiently listening to counsel and attempting to move the matter along expeditiously but fairly. She is doing this under the pressure of the US Attorney’s office and the complaints of the relatives of the victims who also want a speedy trial regardless of whether Whitey’s counsel have had sufficient time to prepare their defense.
But she has to keep in mind that this is not a normal case. It is being watched as much as the OJ Simpson case as shown by the names of the publications listed above demonstrating a nationwide interest in this matter. Even beyond that, there is almost universal agreement that Whitey is guilty unlike the OJ case where some few had a doubt about his guilt. Whitey’s guilt has already been confirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit that wrote “Among Connolly’s misdeeds was disclosure of the names of at least two informants, . . . both of whom were murdered by Flemmi, Bulger or their associates shortly after the leaks.” So much for the assumption of innocence.
It is up to Judge Bowler to fight off this government pressure and to attempt to ignore the universal condemnation of Whitey by doing her best to provide him with his Constitutional right to a fair trial. The first step in this regard is that he has an adequate time to prepare his defense. At this points when counsel are still fighting over discovery which she recognizes is still a matter of proper dispute we’re realistically looking at a trial date a year from now at the earliest.
At the last hearing she gave the government a week to break down some of its discovery into groups. She set the next hearing for October 5 at which she said she will set motion dates. I don’t see how she can do that if there is still a discovery dispute. I suggested yesterday the prosecutors should stop fighting with defense counsel and bend over backwards to please them if it wants an earlier trial date.
As difficult as it may be, Judge Bowler is doing her best to ignore the clamor of the crowd, the push of the prosecutors, and the conclusion of the Court of Appeals. She recognizes this is no easy case to defend. There are 19 murder charges. There are over 300,000 documents. Each has to be read and related to other documents and compared to the statements of witnesses made in other trials and in their books. The murders occurred many years ago. There are paid government witnesses who have told many different tales. There are other witnesses who tell different stories. There are witnesses yet to be interviewed. This takes time, lots of time.
If we are still in the discovery stage, then the date that J.W. Carney requested, a year from November seems appropriate. Carney and his team have an obligation to properly prepare this case. What sense does it make to give Whitey good lawyers and then deprive them of proper preparation time.
Too much is at stake especially here in Boston which is known as the Cradle of Liberty. This is where John Adams took on the defense of Captain Preston and the eight British soldiers charged with the Boston massacre. He did this against the outcry of the Boston mob. He was motivated by what Governor Francis Bernard had told him: “the Massachusetts was not a bloodthirsty people.”
With all the nation watching us, it seems paramount that the person we consider the most evil of people is accorded all of his rights including a well prepared defense. We want to show that even though we all know he is guilty, he really isn’t until a jury says he is. The only way a jury can say that is after a fair trial where both sides say they are ready.