Judge rules criminal background checks can be performed on jurors in James ‘Whitey’ Bulger trial

Prosecutors will be allowed to conduct criminal background checks on jurors in the trial of James “Whitey” Bulger, a federal judge ruled today.

Citing the “unique circumstances of the case,” US District Judge Denise J. Casper, who is presiding over the notorious gangster’s trial, ruled this afternoon that the checks could be made.

Prosecutors had contended, among other things, that given the time, effort, and resources that would be invested in the trial, the background checks should be done in order to avoid the risk that someone would be seated on the jury who should not be.

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Casper rejected defense arguments that there was no federal law requiring the checks, no precedent in the First Circuit for doing so, and no compelling reasons to do it.

“The fact ... that there is no federal law mandating such record checks or established practice of doing so in the ordinary course does not mean that it is not prudent to do so in this case, a case that the attorneys on both sides estimate will take several months to try and will involve substantial time and effort not just for counsel, but by the citizens who are ultimately seated on the jury,” Judge Casper wrote in her decision.

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