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August 14, 2013

Should prosecutors in Florida and Oklahoma pursue capital charges against Whitey Bulger?

The question in the title of this post prompted by this Boston Globe article, which is headlined "Death penalty possible for Bulger in Fla., Okla.,"

With his federal racketeering trial completed, James “Whitey” Bulger still faces possible death penalty trials in Florida and Oklahoma.

[T]he Boston jury found that prosecutors had proved Bulger’s involvement in the 1982 slaying of businessman John B. Callahan in Florida.  A spokesman for Katherine Fernandez Rundle, the state attorney for Miami-Dade County, where Bulger is facing a murder indictment for Callahan’s slaying, welcomed the news that the Boston jury found prosecutors had proved his role in the killing. “I think that indicates that a jury, once given the evidence, came to the same conclusions that we did,” said the spokesman, Ed Griffith. “That’s why we indicted him.”

Griffith declined to say when, or if, Florida prosecutors plan to seek the transfer of Bulger to their jurisdiction, saying only that they will “evaluate our course of action” after the gangster is sentenced in Boston.  Griffith also would not say if Florida authorities would seek the death penalty. “You don’t make those decisions in advance,” Griffith said....

Asked if Fernandez Rundle was eager to prosecute Bulger, Griffith said, “Anybody charged with first-degree murder deserves prosecution. That’s a prosecutor’s position anywhere, any time.”...

Michael Von Zamft, the Miami Dade prosecutor who secured the conviction of disgraced FBI agent John Connolly in Callahan’s death, also would not speculate on whether his office will try Bulger in Florida.... He said he expects Bulger to receive a life sentence in Boston. “If that happens, then of course we might have to, given his age ... consider whether it’s advantageous to try him or let him negotiate something” with Florida prosecutors, Von Zamft said.

Also in Boston, the federal jury found that prosecutors had proved Bulger’s involvement in the 1981 murder of World Jai Alai owner Roger Wheeler in Oklahoma.

Tim Harris, the district attorney for Tulsa County, where Bulger is charged with Wheeler’s murder, declined to comment on the Oklahoma case. He did, however, praise the Boston jurors....  He added, “After Federal sentencing we will access his punishment, review his appeal rights and determine what is practical and feasible under our analysis of the facts and circumstances, including our available resources.”

I am especially interested to hear from current/former prosecutors, as well as from strong proponents of the death penalty, concerning (1) whether they agree with the sentiment expressed above that anyone "charged with first-degree murder deserves prosecution" (my emphasis added), and (2) whether they believe that, notwithstanding that the elderly Bulger is sure to get a life sentence from the feds, that justice calls for seeking a state death sentence (or two) against this multiple murderer.

I suspect most folks would be quick to suggest, based on practical issues like costs and delay, that neither Florida or Oklahoma should bother to actively seek to have Bulger sent to death row. But strong advocates of the death penalty often complain about abolitionists who cite practical issues like cost and delay to justify eliminating the death penalty altogether.  Thus, I am especially interested and curious to hear from capital punishment advocates as to whether they believe that, for a calculating mass killer like Bulger already facing an LWOP term,  it still remains important to seek to impose upon him our society's ultimate punishment.

August 14, 2013 at 04:04 PM | Permalink


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123D. Imagine the value of the damages prevented had he been executed at age 14. But according to the lawyer dumbasses on the Supreme Court, he was less culpable.


"Bulger was a troublemaker as a child, and even lived out the childhood fantasy of running away with the circus when he was 10 years old.

Whitey Bulger was first arrested when he was 14 years old, for stealing, and his criminal record continued to escalate from there. As a youth, he was arrested for larceny, forgery, assault and battery, and armed robbery and served five years in a juvenile reformatory. Upon his release, he joined the Air Force where he served time in military jail for assault before being arrested for going AWOL. Nonetheless, he received an honorable discharge in 1952.
Life of Crime

After returning to Boston, Bulger embarked upon a life of crime. His offenses grew increasingly large in scale, culminating in a string of bank robberies from Rhode Island to Indiana. In June 1956, he was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison. He ended up serving nine years, including stints in Atlanta, Alcatraz, and Leavenworth. He returned to Boston to resume his life of crime."

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 15, 2013 3:09:14 AM

The death penalty at this stage would be lawyer rent seeking, just pointless churning of lawyer hours, and a defrauding of the taxpayer, because of no additional benefit.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 15, 2013 3:14:46 AM

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