The Bulger Jury Implies Disagreement on at Least One of His Alleged Crimes

Lawyers and the judge didn’t share what they were meeting about, but there seems to be some complication.

Update: Since the early afternoon mystery drama, the jury has submitted another question to the judge. The deal is that Count 2 in Bulger’s indictment, the racketeering charge, contains 33 acts. The jury need find that the government proved him guilty  of just two of those 33, which include all 19 murders, in order to find him guilty on that count. In their question, the jury said they know they must be unanimous in their decision to find that any one of the 33 acts was “proven.” But they wanted to know whether they must be unanimous in finding that it was “not proven” as well. The lawyers and the judge agreed that she should answer that yes, they do need to be similarly unanimous. But there are 33 counts, and if they can’t be unanimous on any one of them, she said they should leave it blank and move on. The question implies that the jury is split on at least one of the racketeering acts. But given the government only needs two of the 33 to go their way, you shouldn’t read into it and assume that Bulger’s on his way to getting off. That’s by no means the case. But it does mean that the victims’ families who await a ruling by a jury of Bulger’s peers on any one of the murders might instead find a blank jury form, which would probably be pretty disappointing, even if his overall verdict is the same.

Original: It became apparent that there was some kind of issue with one or more juror, and that the legal teams didn’t agree on how to deal with it, when the attorneys for both sides met with Judge Casper at sidebar and huddle amongst themselves several times in the Whitey Bulger trial today. U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz was on the scene, meeting with her staff and hanging around, which also suggested something portentous was afoot. Bulger was also brought into and out of court as the lawyers argued at sidebar, and observers thought he looked … happy, or at least relaxed.

Earlier, the jurors had asked the judge four questions, none of which necessarily gave the sense that they were facing some insurmountable obstacle. They wanted to know whether to consider the statute of limitations on murders or other charges. (They don’t have to, as there isn’t one for the federal racketeering charges.) They wanted extra printouts of the judge’s instructions. And they wanted clarification on “aiding and abetting.” (The judge pointed them to the relevant paragraphs from her instructions.) Based on their seating when they appeared briefly in court this morning, they’ve named a South Shore man as their foreman who told the judge during jury selection that he’d recently started a part-time job but had previously been a stay-at-home-dad.  The jury deliberated for about six and a half hours yesterday before beginning their first full day of deliberations this morning. Given the sweeping nature of the charges against Bulger, it would have been surprising to see them return a verdict this quickly. As for now, all twelve seem to remain in place and deliberating.