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Tue June 11, 2013
The Bulger Trial: Notes From The [Chaotic] Courtroom
Moakley Courthouse: 6/11/13
Given that opening statements haven't even occurred yet, the scene in the Whitey Bulger trial today was almost shockingly dramatic. After the 18-person jury was selected and sworn in, Judge Denise Casper took up the defense's request to delay opening arguments while it investigates allegations that John Martorano -- an admitted mass murder and key witness for the prosecution -- is engaging in criminal behavior and receiving protection from the Mass. State Police. That allegation was made by a State Police officer, investigated by the State Police, and deemed unfounded -- but defense attorney J.W. Carney contends that the State Police can't be trusted to honestly police themselves.
After Fred Wyshak, the assistant US Attorney, argued that Carney's requests for more materials on a possible cover-up are inappropriate, Judge Casper made it clear she's inclined to agree with the government, saying an "extensive investigation" by the State Police showed the allegations to be "false and nonfactual."
"Even if the anonymous allegations were proven to be true," Casper continued, "which I submit to you is not the case..."
This is where Carney lost it. "How do you know that?" he shouted at Judge Casper. "You haven't interviewed the trooper!" The Bulger case itself, Carney went on, loudly, shows that the government is hardly averse to conspiracies of silence. "The government wants to cover this up and hide it! That's the theme of the last 20 years!"
On Law & Order, this is where the judge shouts down the overly emotional lawyer and threatens to jail them on a contempt charge. But Judge Casper let Carney speak for several minutes, and while he continued to press his point, he gradually simmered down.
Then it was Wyshak's turn.
"Mr. Carney," Wyshak complained, "continues to impugn the integrity of the prosecution team, and I take great umbrage at that." He wasn't done. "It's inappropriate and dishonorable behavior by the defense," Wyshak added, his voice trembling with emotion, "and I hope this behavior won't continue for the trial." At this point, whatever serenity Carney had found after his initial outburst vanished. "Oh, you bet it's going to continue!" he yelled at Wyshak. Mayhem in the court -- at which point Judge Casper had to shout down the shouting attorneys like a frustrated parent reining in unruly children.
After a brief sidebar, Judge Casper -- calm again herself -- addressed the court. "I think we've all taken a deep breath and are ready to continue," she announced, telling Wyshak, Carney, and the other attorneys that she'd see them tomorrow morning. Somewhat surprisingly, she didn't rule on the defense's request to delay opening statements until the Martorano issue is sorted out. But given how skeptical Casper seemed in her back-and-forth with Carney, the smart money says opening statements will take place tomorrow as scheduled.
WGBH's Adam Reilly will be sitting in on the Bulger trial for WGBH News. Follow his Tweets here.