BOSTON (AP) - A federal prosecutor and a lawyer for reputed gangster James "Whitey" Bulger shouted at each other and traded insults Tuesday over an allegation that state police thwarted an investigation into a key prosecution witness.
The heated exchange between Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Wyshak and Bulger attorney J.W. Carney Jr. came just after a jury was picked for Bulger's racketeering trial. Twelve regular jurors and six alternates were chosen.
Opening statements are expected Wednesday.
Bulger, 83, the former leader of the Winter Hill Gang, is accused of a long list of crimes, including participating in 19 murders during the 1970s and '80s. He was one of the nation's most wanted fugitives after he fled Boston in 1994.
Bulger was finally captured in 2011 in Santa Monica, Calif., where he and his longtime girlfriend had been living under assumed names in a rent-controlled apartment.
Carney has asked for a delay in the trial so the defense can investigate a claim made by a state trooper who sent an anonymous letter to the U.S. attorney's office alleging that he was thwarted by his superiors at the state police when he tried to investigate John Martorano, a former hit man for Bulger who admitted killing 20 people. The trooper said Martorano - who is expected to testify against Bulger - has been committing crimes anew since his release from a federal prison in 2007.
In court Tuesday, Carney repeatedly accused prosecutors of engaging in a cover-up and began shouting when Judge Denise Casper indicated she was leaning toward denying a defense request to order state police to turn over any documents related to an investigation of Martorano and three other men.
Casper said she reviewed reports turned over to her by prosecutors and noted that an investigation found the trooper's allegations to be "false and non-factual."
Carney then raised his voice and said, "How can your honor know that?"
"How can you know that?" he said. "You haven't interviewed the trooper."
Carney maintains that a decision by the state police to look the other way on new crimes committed by Martorano would amount to a reward or inducement for his testimony against Bulger. He said the defense is entitled to get a copy of the state police interview with the trooper who made the allegation.
"The government wants to cover this up and hide it. That's the theme of the last 20 years," Carney said.
Wyshak said prosecutors have turned over all the reports that are relevant discovery in the case. He called Carney "unlawyerly" and criticized him for repeatedly accusing prosecutors of a cover-up.
"It's inappropriate and dishonorable behavior by the defense in this case," Wyshak said.
Casper intervened when the two men started shouting at each other.
"Counsel, counsel, OK, seriously? Seriously?" she said.
Casper said she would give Carney's motion some further consideration but indicated she was leaning toward denying it. "There isn't anything I've come across yet that brings me to a different conclusion," she said.
The judge told the lawyers and the 18 jurors to report to court Wednesday morning.
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