Prosecutors in Florida, where Whitey Bulger could face death penalty, evaluate options
With his federal racketeering trial completed, James “Whitey” Bulger still faces possible death penalty trials in Florida and Oklahoma.
Today, the Boston jury found that prosecutors had proved Bulger’s involvement in the 1982 slaying of businessman John B. Callahan in Florida.
A spokesman for Katherine Fernandez Rundle, the state attorney for Miami-Dade County, where Bulger is facing a murder indictment for Callahan’s slaying, welcomed the news that the Boston jury found prosecutors had proved his role in the killing.
“I think that indicates that a jury, once given the evidence, came to the same conclusions that we did,” said the spokesman, Ed Griffith. “That’s why we indicted him.”
Griffith declined to say when, or if, Florida prosecutors plan to seek the transfer of Bulger to their jurisdiction, saying only that they will “evaluate our course of action” after the gangster is sentenced in Boston.
Griffith also would not say if Florida authorities would seek the death penalty.
“You don’t make those decisions in advance,” Griffith said. “You evaluate that based on all of the circumstances.”
Asked if Fernandez Rundle was eager to prosecute Bulger, Griffith said, “Anybody charged with first-degree murder deserves prosecution. That’s a prosecutor’s position anywhere, any time.”
Michael Von Zamft, the Miami Dade prosecutor who secured the conviction of disgraced FBI agent John Connolly in Callahan’s death, also would not speculate on whether his office will try Bulger in Florida.
“I think that it’s an anti-climactic matter at the moment,” Von Zamft said of the Boston jury’s finding in the Callahan case. “Not that that’s a bad thing. I like the result. The bottom line for me is, we have to see what’s the best thing to do.”
He said he expects Bulger to receive a life sentence in Boston.
“If that happens, then of course we might have to, given his age ... consider whether it’s advantageous to try him or let him negotiate something” with Florida prosecutors, Von Zamft said.
Also in Boston, the federal jury found that prosecutors had proved Bulger’s involvement in the 1981 murder of World Jai Alai owner Roger Wheeler in Oklahoma.
Tim Harris, the district attorney for Tulsa County, where Bulger is charged with Wheeler’s murder, declined to comment on the Oklahoma case.
He did, however, praise the Boston jurors.
“We applaud the jury’s commitment to justice and their willingness to serve through such an extensive search for the truth,” Harris said in an e-mail.
He added, “After Federal sentencing we will access his punishment, review his appeal rights and determine what is practical and feasible under our analysis of the facts and circumstances, including our available resources.”Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.