The Boston Globe reports:
A federal appeals court judge said Tuesday that he is concerned that the public may not believe that James “Whitey” Bulger will get a fair trial if the case goes forward before US District Judge Richard G. Stearns, who was a top federal prosecutor while the gangster was an FBI informant.
Senior Judge Bruce M. Selya spoke about public confidence in the courts during a hearing in Boston where Bulger’s defense lawyer, J.W. Carney Jr. asked the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit to remove Stearns from Bulger’s impending trial.
“I’m concerned about the public perception as to whether the defendant can get a fair trial under these circumstances,’’ said Selya, a member of a three-judge panel that heard arguments on Bulger’s request for a new trial judge.
Selya pointed out that Bulger, who is scheduled to stand trial in June in connection with 19 killings in the 1970s and 1980s, has yet to offer any proof of his assertion that he was granted immunity from prosecution by a former federal prosecutor. Still, he said Bulger insists that he will not get a fair trial before Stearns because he was a prosecutor in the US attorney’s office from 1982 to 1990, including a stint as chief of the criminal division.
Carney, who has also said he wants to call Stearns as a witness, summarized the kind of judge he thinks should handle the Bulger trial: “a judge not connected to the most infamous period in law enforcement history in Boston.’’
In the past, families of Bulger’s alleged victims have opposed removal of Stearns, citing concerns that it was a tactic to delay the trial. But Carney assured the appeals court Tuesday that he would be ready for trial, even if the case is turned over to another judge. . . .