(CN) – Attorneys for former Boston mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger on Monday asked a First Circuit panel to toss his 2013 conviction on multiple charges of murder, racketeering, extortion and conspiracy, claiming his trial was unfair.
Bulger is now 85 years old and serving two consecutive life sentences at a federal prison in Florida, but his lawyers told the three-judge appeals panel that his incarceration is a miscarriage of justice because their client never got to present his assertion that he was promised immunity for his crimes by a now-dead prosecutor, Jeremiah O’Sullivan.
In his heyday, the 1970s, Bulger was to organized crime in Boston what John Gotti was to the mob in New York – a man to be feared and a name everybody in the city seemed to know. Federal prosecutors were about to try to bring down his crime syndicate once and for all in 1995, when an FBI agent allegedly tipped him off to his pending arrest.
Bulger and a girlfriend, Catherine Greif, were arrested in June 2011 in Santa Monica, Calif., after spending some 15 years on the run.
On Monday, August 12, 2013, a federal jury found Bulger guilty of 31 of the 32 counts he faced, including those related to 11 of the 19 murders he allegedly committed, and 11 racketeering charges.
His attorneys immediately vowed to appeal, saying their client had been promised immunity by O’Sullivan for protecting him against mobsters he prosecuted.
“The defendant has that right to testify. There is no shaking that right,” said attorney Hank Brennan on Bulger’s behalf on Monday.
But the government said Bulger was only stopped from testifying about his claim of immunity because he had no hard evidence to back up his claims.
Ultimately, Bulger chose not to testify at all.
Brennan also argued that federal prosecutors failed to turn over details about an agreement they had with one of the key witnesses against Bulger, hit man John Martorano.
But this appeared to strike a sour chord with the panel.
U.S. Circuit Judge William Kayatta Jr. said jurors at Bulger’s trial were told about Martorano ‘s plea agreement, and wondered aloud what difference it would have made if jurors knew the details of what the mobster received in return for his testimony.
Monday’s hearing comes nearly two months after the family of one of Bulger’s victims sued the federal government, claiming the FBI allowed their loved one’s body to remain on a small Massachusetts beach for decades.
Paul McGonagle Sr., the leader of a rival outfit, disappeared in 1974. The widowed Mary McGonagle and her two sons say law enforcement finally unearthed Paul’s remains in September 2000 after Kevin Weeks, of South Boston, led them to a shallow grave at Tenean Beach in Dorchester.
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