'Whitey' Bulger Move to Exclude Reporters: Names As Witnesses

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on June 06, 2013 3:58 PM

James "Whitey" Bulger may have ulterior motive in naming reporters who have covered his criminal career as defense witnesses, barring them from reporting on his case.

The infamous Bostonian gangster moved to exclude Boston Globe reporter Shelley Murphy and columnist Kevin Cullen from covering his case because Bulger might call the two as defense witnesses, reports Boston.com.

Will the court allow Bulger to sequester members of the media by naming them as witnesses?

Relation to Bulger

Both Cullen and Murphy are media veterans in the Boston area, and both have covered the life and criminal comings and goings of Bulger for decades. They even penned a book together on Bulger entitled "Whitey Bulger: America's Most Wanted Gangster And The Manhunt That Brought Him to Justice," and in its pages, at least 19 people are killed by Bulger, reports The Washington Post.

As icing on the cake, federal prosecutor Brian Kelly claims that Bulger has described at length his loathing for Murphy and Cullen on jailhouse tapes, Boston.com reports.

Impeachment Witnesses?

Despite the allegations of bad blood, Bulger asserts that they are defense witnesses who may be used to impeach the testimony of "crucial government witnesses," who have spoken with Cullen and Murphy concerning Bulger. Attorney for the Boston Globe Jonathan Albano cited his disbelief that these specific members of the Globe's staff were vital, arguing before Judge Casper that Bulger is using sequestration to kick out people he doesn't like, reports Boston's NECN.

1st Amendment v. 6th Amendment

Bulger does have a basic 6th Amendment right to confront his accusers and compel their attendance, and it is no secret that Cullen and Murphy have accused him in many media forms of murder. These rights are not absolute, however, and the Supreme Court has recognized that courts can impose discovery sanctions that deny a defendant's right to compel witnesses, especially when a defendant is trying to game the court to get a tactical advantage.

The Globe argues that this effectively chills their 1st Amendment right to cover the trial by systematically denying their most experienced reporters access to a public hearing.

Judge Casper will likely balance both concerns before making her ruling.

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