A pool of 675 Massachusetts residents is being whittled down to form a 12-person jury that will sit in judgment of James 'Whitey' Bulger, the alleged Boston criminal who evaded arrest for 16 years after fleeing his hometown in 1994.
Potential jurors are filling out questionnaires Tuesday and Wednesday, according to ABC News. The selection process is expected to last four days. District Judge Denise Casper forbade the media from covering Tuesday and Wednesday proceedings, Reuters reports, but will allow the public to attend proceedings starting on Thursday. Bulger's trial could begin next week.
In his prime in the 1970s and '80s Bulger, an FBI informant, allegedly whacked at least 19 disfavored rivals, sold drugs and corrupted FBI agents and police officers. He is charged with ordering or committing 19 unlawful killings.
During a pretrial hearing Monday, the presiding judge issued a "stern warning" to Bulger's attorneys, cautioning them not to go overboard in their dealings with the media, WBUR radio reports, and decided to allow limited testimony from the families of alleged victims. The former Winter Hill Gang leader's defense team agreed with prosecutors Monday that his FBI informant file should be allowed as evidence.
Bulger, 83, reportedly has several prominent individuals on his intended witness list, including FBI Director Robert Mueller, who worked as an assistant U.S. Attorney in Massachusetts in the 1980s, and former Gov. William Weld, R-Mass. It's unclear if they will be forced to testify.
"He stabbed people, he beat people with bats, he shot people, strangled people, run them over with car," former Bulger associate Kevin Weeks told "60 Minutes" in 2006. "After he would kill somebody, he'd - it was like a stress relief, you know? He'd be nice and calm for a couple of weeks afterwards, like he just got rid of all his stress."
Former Bulger enforcer Edward MacKenzie told CBS in 2011 he expects Bulger to expose official corruption during the trial.
"Whitey was no fool. He knew he would get caught. I think he'll have more fun pulling all those skeletons out of the closet," MacKenzie said. "I think he'll start talking and he'll start taking people down."
Shortly after Bulger's 2011 arrest a retired Massachusetts State Police Major also predicted a day of reckoning for crooked cops. "If he starts to talk, there will be some unwelcome accountability on the part of a lot of people inside law enforcement," Tom Duffy told The Associated Press.
Bulger and his long-time girlfriend Catherine Greig were arrested at a Santa Monica, Calif., apartment on June 22, 2011. FBI agents found $822,000 and 30 guns in the apartment. Greig is serving an 8-year sentence after pleading guilty in 2012 to conspiring to harbor a fugitive and identity theft charges.
Last month a three-judge appeals court panel rejected Greig's appeal for a reduced sentence. Greig "undoubtedly helped Bulger keep his public outings to a minimum, thus reducing his risk of detection," the court ruled, according to the Boston Globe. "When Bulger did have to go out and about, Greig kept the ruse going, assuming a false identity herself and helping Bulger carry on with his."
Former FBI agent John Connolly allegedly protected Bulger from arrest and prompted him to flee. Connolly is currently serving a 40-year jail term for telling Bulger about a man intending to testify against him. Connolly's 2009 second-degree murder conviction for the 1982 killing of potential witness John Callahan came after his federal racketeering conviction for accepting bribes and for tipping Bulger off. Connolly denies taking part in the 1982 murder.
"The Justice Department is going to do everything within its power to try to make sure the full story never comes out," Connolly told The Daily Beast last year in a telephone interview from prison.
Weeks, Bulger's retired henchman, testified at Connolly's murder trail that Bulger boasted about bribing six FBI agents and 20 Boston policemen.
Bulger was featured on the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted" list for 12 years and inspired the popular 2006 film "The Departed."