James "Whitey" Bulger is on trial for 19 murders. UPI/FBI Handout | License Photo
Defense attorneys for James "Whitey" Bulger have asked a federal judge to lift a gag order, claiming prosecutors have an advantage because they have been allowed to argue the case against the notorious gangster in the media.
Attorneys J.W. Carney, Jr. and Henry Brennan filed a motion in the U.S. District Court in Boston Sunday, saying the gag order undermines Bulger's constitutional rights in his defense against 19 murder charges.
"The overriding tenor of the media coverage has been adverse to the defendant," the filing said. "The defendant has no voice in this discourse."
Bulger's legal team said the prosecution is "trying this case in the media," rather than in court, by allowing witnesses for the prosecution to speak to reporters after testifying and allowing accusations from the families of the 19 people whose deaths have been charged to Bulger to go unanswered.
The defendant and attorneys "seek only to defend his reputation and provide the public with a fuller, fairer understanding of this historic trial," the filing said.
The U.S. Attorney's office in Boston urged the District Court Judge Denise Casper to keep the gag order in place.
"Bulger, who has five taxpayer-funded attorneys in the courtroom helping him find his 'voice,' can also exercise his actual voice from the witness stand if he so chooses," wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Kelly.
Kelly also pointed out the 12 sitting jurors and 6 alternates receive daily warnings not to watch news coverage of the trial.
Bulger, 83, is accused of racketeering, extortion, money laundering, and building an illegal arsenal of guns, as well as running the Winter Hill gang from 1972 to 2000. He was on the run for 16 years before he was finally arrested in Santa Monica, Calif., in 2011.