The lawyer for James “Whitey” Bulger said today that he will ask for a delay of the notorious gangster’s long-anticipated trial, asserting that the sheer amount of evidence to review in the case has left him overwhelmed and physically stressed, and that meeting Bulger’s November trial date is unrealistic.
Attorney J.W. Carney Jr. got personal as he described for a federal judge the toll on his health taken by preparations for the trial. Carney was appointed to represent Bulger nine months ago, after Bulger’s arrest in Santa Monica, Calif. One of Bulger’s co-defendants’ cases was pending for four years, Carney argued.
The 60-year-old advocate known for taking high-profile cases said his doctor has noted his suffering, and that he did not want his gravestone to read he was a lawyer who “died in 2012 from stress of trying to get a case ready” by an unrealistic deadline.
But US Magistrate Judge Marianne B. Bowler made clear that the trial date stands at this time. Showing no sympathy, she asked Carney to submit a motion for withdrawal from the case if he cannot physically continue.
Carney said he was not yet ready to withdraw. He said he would spell out his argument in an official motion to delay the trial, to be filed within two weeks.
“I think that’s the first step,” he said, maintaining that no lawyer could sort through the extensive records in time for the trial.
Some family members of Bulger’s alleged victims quickly lashed out at Carney’s arguments after Tuesday’s brief hearing, saying he was using a ruse to delay the trial.
“All of us have been stressed out over this for 31 years,” said Steve Davis, whose 26-year-old sister Debra Davis was allegedly strangled by Bulger in 1981. He said Carney should step aside if he could not handle the case.
Prosecutors also argued that the defense team is overwhelming itself with records that are inconsequential to the case. The prosecutors offered to meet with Carney to narrow the scope of evidence at issue.
“It’s in our interest to move this along, too,” said Assistant US Attorney Brian T. Kelly, head of the public corruption unit. He argued that Bulger, at 82, is indeed trying to stall, noting, “He fled the district 16 years ago trying to avoid the trial.”
Bulger is accused of participating in 19 murders. He fled after being warned by a corrupt FBI agent of his pending indictment in 1995, and he was one of the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” fugitives until his arrest last June. He was with his longtime girlfriend, Catherine Greig. She has pleaded guilty to harboring a fugitive and identity theft, and is to be sentenced June 12.
In a separate development Tuesday, Bowler set a hearing for June 21 on Carney’s request to lift an order prohibiting him from discussing or releasing any discovery material. He has said that the order restricts his ability to freely file court motions and discuss the material.
Kelly argued against lifting the order, saying the case involves sensitive personal information about certain witnesses. He said he and Carney could work on an agreement to determine what records could be released.
Outside the courthouse, Carney said prosecutors were trying to keep confidential “the depth of corruption that occurred in this city for decades.”
He also said he meets with Bulger regularly, and that “he is very intelligent, very well-read, has an excellent memory and is looking forward to the trial.”