Attorneys whittling down jury pool for James ‘Whitey’ Bulger trial

(NECN: Alysha Palumbo – Boston) – As 775 men and women wait to learn whether they’ve been selected to serve on the 18 member jury in James “Whitey” Bulger’s murder trial, attorneys for both Bulger and the government methodically sift through page after page of juror questionnaires, possibly ranking the jurors based on how they believe they could decide this case.

Federal court trial lawyer and Mass School of Law Associate Dean Michael Coyne said, “Those days will be as important to this trial as any because those people will ultimately sit and determine Whitey’s fate.”

Coyne says after attorneys whittle down the jury pool Friday, a much smaller group will be brought in Monday and Tuesday for follow up questions and eventually narrowed even further with attorney challenges.

He said, “That’s where the game really becomes very, very important is, who do I use challenges for cause on and who do I use my peremptory challenges, which I don’t have to state a reason at all?”

And Coyne says even though many in this community may see this case as a slam dunk for the prosecution, he believes Bulger has one of a handful of lawyers in the area in J.W. Carney who could sway the jury.

Coyne said, “I think he’s got a chance against enormous odds in this case, and as he starts to connect what defense lawyers want to do is have the jury see their client as a person, not just defendant.”

That has already begun, as Bulger was introduced to all the prospective jurors in unassuming casual clothing, even exchanging pleasantries with the jury pool.

“I think they see someone different than some of the information that they’ve heard so far,” said Coyne, “I mean first of all, he’s 80-years-old, he’s not this mean (looking at least) killer that he’s been portrayed as in the media for decades.”

But Coyne says clearly the evidence in this case will be extremely difficult to overcome.

He said, “The government has crafted a very broad, sweeping indictment, the crimes that are alleged are over a period of 30 years which means there’s an awful lot of evidence.”

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