Boston Herald seeks to keep columnist Howie Carr in courtroom during James “Whitey” Bulger trial

Howie Carr pictured at WRKO in 2007.
Howie Carr pictured at WRKO in 2007.Erik Jacobs for The Boston Globe

The Boston Herald filed a request in federal court today to exclude the newspaper’s columnist Howie Carr from a sequestration order that would prevent him from sitting in the courtroom during the trial of James “Whitey” Bulger, the notorious gangster who has been the subject of countless Carr columns and several books.

The motion came a day after US District Court Judge Denise Casper granted a similar request from The Boston Globe to exclude veteran journalists, reporter Shelley Murphy and columnist Kevin Cullen, who wrote a book together about Bulger, from the same sequestration order.

“The Boston Herald and Mr. Carr respectfully submit that the reasons supporting exemption of those journalists similarly require exclusion of Mr. Carr from the sequestration order,” the newspaper’s lawyer, Elizabeth A. Ritvo, said the in the filing today.

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The three journalists would have been subjected to the sequestration order because Bulger’s lawyers had named them on their list of more than 80 potential witnesses. Under court rules, potential witnesses are typically prohibited from listening to courtroom testimony to ensure their own statements are not influenced by others.

Authors and fomer Globe reporters Dick Lehr and Gerald O’Neill, were also put on the list.

Bulger’s lead lawyer, J.W Carney Jr., had said the journalists may be called to testify about their interviews with some of the players in the trial, including Bulger’s former cohorts who are set to testify against him.

The Boston Globe alleged that Bulger had put the journalists on his witness list in a deceitful, vindictive strategy to ban them from the courtroom out of retribution for their years covering his history of alleged crime and his work as an informant for the FBI.

On Friday, Casper ruled that keeping Murphy and Cullen out of the courtroom would infringe not only on the newspaper’s rights, but as their individual rights as journalists. The judge also said there was no certainty that they could be called as witnesses.

In its request today, the Herald asked Casper to follow the same standard in excluding Carr from the sequestration order.

“Mr. Carr has written extensively about this case, this trial, and this defendant,” the newspaper said. “He has intended to continue his reporting on the trial and to attend the trial.”

The newspaper added, “The First Amendment equally and similarly protects the rights of the Boston Herald and Mr. Carr and the rights of the Boston Globe, Ms. Murphy, and Mr. Cullen.”

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