Bulger Day 36: It’s in the Jury’s Hands

The judge gave the jury instructions before sending them off to decide Whitey Bulger's fate.

The 12 women and men who will decide Whitey Bulger’s fate got a lesson in criminal law from Judge Denise J. Casper this morning before beginning to deliberate on each of his charges. Having heard the marathon-esque closing arguments yesterday, the jury received instructions both general and specific to the Bulger case.

That means the judge reminded them of basic rules like the difference between “reasonable doubt” and “all possible doubt.”  (They don’t have to find him guilty beyond all possible doubt.) She also went through each of the specific charges, describing what’s required in order for the jury to return a guilty verdict. On conspiracy charges, for instance, they must decide there was an agreement, spoken or unspoken, between more than one person.

When the judge reminded them that Bulger faces a charge of conspiracy to distribute marijuana and cocaine, you might have noted that his lawyers long ago made the decision to all but admit to the drug charges and focus instead on contesting the murders. That means, and Bulger has noted this in letters from jail, that he’ll almost certainly be found guilty of enough crimes to put him away for the rest of his life. The rest of the verdicts beyond that will be symbolic, a point of principal and a long-delayed meting out of justice for the victims’ families.

Once instructed, the judge named the 12 official jurors, revealing to the six alternates that though they’ve listened to weeks of testimony (some more attentively than others) they likely won’t have a hand in deciding Bulger’s fate. That’s got to sting. For now, they like us will just have to sit back and wait for a verdict.

Update: After five and a half hours of deliberation, the jury didn’t reach a verdict and the judge sent them home for the evening. They’ll be expected to meet from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily until they do finish the job.