BOSTON — Jurors in the racketeering trial of reputed crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger worked through their fourth day of deliberations Friday as prosecutors complained that a defense lawyer was trying to influence them through the news media.
The jury has discussed the 32 counts for more than 20 hours since getting the case Tuesday.
On Friday, prosecutor Brian Kelly asked Judge Denise Casper to admonish defense attorney J.W. Carney Jr., citing comments he made to reporters on Thursday praising the jury's diligence. Kelly called the comments “an obvious attempt” to influence the jury.
Kelly has repeatedly complained about Carney's interaction with reporters, citing a rule that limits what a lawyer can talk about with the media once a trial begins. Carney has said he has strictly adhered to the rule.
Kelly also referred to a silly moment Carney had with reporters Thursday, when the defense attorney took off his shoes and socks to show off his manicured toenails, painted with purple nail polish. Kelly said it's one thing if Carney “wants to discuss his strange personal habits” with reporters, but said he shouldn't be allowed to make comments about the jury during deliberations.
Carney said he was speaking generally for everyone involved in the trial, saying “everyone should be proud of the diligence” being shown by the jury.
“I think that's as neutral a comment as can be made,” he said.
Casper did not take any immediate action. The judge repeatedly has warned the jury not to read, watch or listen to any media coverage of the trial.
Bulger, 83, is charged in a sweeping racketeering indictment with playing a role in 19 killings during the 1970s and '80s. He was one of the nation's most wanted fugitives after fleeing Boston in 1994 before his indictment. He was captured in Santa Monica in 2011.
About two dozen family members of people believed killed by Bulger and his gang have waited at the courthouse for a verdict. On Friday, many of them sat together in the cafeteria, sharing a meal and playing cards.
“It's good to see a lot of people here standing up for their loved ones,” said Shawn Donahue, 42, whose father, Michael Donahue, was shot to death in 1982. Bulger is accused of spraying Donahue's car with bullets as he left a South Boston restaurant with Bulger's target, Edward “Brian” Halloran. Donahue had offered Halloran a ride home.
Donahue, his mother and two brothers attended the trial every day. He said the waiting is difficult — not knowing when the jury will return its verdict and what the verdict will be.
“It is tough watching my mother go through it and deal with it,” he said.
After the jury reaches its verdict, a separate forfeiture hearing will be held on a request by the government to force Bulger to give up the $822,000 in cash, 30 guns and other items found in the Santa Monica apartment. The jury will be asked to make that decision after hearing arguments from prosecutors and Bulger's attorneys.
On Friday, a lawyer for a woman who was allegedly extorted by Bulger asked Casper to hold off on taking any action on the government's forfeiture request.
Bulger is accused of extorting a South Boston liquor store from Julie Dammers and her ex-husband, Stephen Rakes. Dammers won a $29-million judgment against Bulger while he was a fugitive. After Bulger was apprehended, a federal judge granted a request from Dammers' lawyer to put a lien on Bulger's assets.
Casper deferred action on the motion, saying the jury will only be asked to decide whether Bulger's assets should be forfeited, not how they should be distributed. The jury will resume deliberations on Monday.