'Whitey' Bulger Murder Trial Starts With 600 Potential Jurors

PHOTO: Alleged crime figure James J. "Whitey" Bulger is shown in 1984.
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More than 600 people will be questioned this week as jury selection begins in the murder trial of accused Boston mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger, who spent much of his 16 years on the run on the FBI's "10 Most Wanted" list.

Potential jurors will fill out questionnaires today and Wednesday to be used to eliminate people with conflicts. After the pool is winnowed down, potential jurors will be questioned individually.

Bulger's name is one of the most well-known in Boston, so there is some concern that it will be difficult to seat an unbiased jury.

The judge has said she hopes to complete the jury-selection process by Friday, with opening statements from prosecutors and defense attorneys expected Monday. The trial is expected to last at least three months.

Bulger, 83, was arrested two years ago for his alleged role in 19 slayings in the 1970s and 1980s. Prosecutors say Bulger ran Boston's infamous Winter Hill Gang for nearly 30 years, which inspired many books and Jack Nicholson's character in the 2006 Oscar-winning film, "The Departed."

More than a dozen pretrial motions were heard Monday by U.S. District Court Judge Denise Casper. Among the pretrial motions, Bulger's defense lawyers had sought to limit testimony from relatives of the 19 people he and his associates are accused of killing. Family members will be allowed to testify against Bulger, but they will not be allowed to make victim-impact statements.

Authorities say Bulger committed crimes, including murder, while he was an FBI informant. Bulger was to be indicted in 1994 but fled Boston after being tipped off by his former FBI handler John Connolly. Connolly was convicted of racketeering and obstruction of justice and served 10 years in prison. He is serving a 40-year prison sentence for his connection to a murder.

Bulger successfully evaded authorities for nearly 16 years and appeared on the FBI's "10 Most Wanted" list. Finally, the FBI decided to change the focus of its search to his longtime girlfriend, Catherine Greig. After releasing an ad, investigators followed a tip that led to the couple's small, rent-controlled Santa Monica, Calif., apartment in 2011.

Greig was sentenced last year to eight years in prison for identity theft and conspiring to harbor a fugitive.

Bulger will come face to face with not only the families of victims prosecutors say he helped kill but his former mob associates, including former hit men who have admitted to taking part in dozens of killings.

The defense plans to call close to 80 witnesses to testify, including Bulger himself. The government's witness list includes a collection of notorious gangsters, including Bulger's former partner, Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi, who's serving a life sentence after pleading guilty in 10 murders.

Former hit man John Martorano, who admitted killing 20 people, also is expected to testify.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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