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Whitey Bulger trial opens with startling statement from defense (+video)

The trial of James 'Whitey' Bulger began Wednesday, with the defense admitting Mr. Bulger was a criminal, but saying he was not guilty of two key murders and did not act as an informant.

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Carney said in his opening remarks that Bulger was not an informant, and that he is not guilty of killing the two women listed by prosecutors among the alleged murder victims.

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For the prosecution, however, the case is all about bringing to justice the alleged leader of a major crime ring, who reaped his millions through a reign of terror.

“At the center of all this murder and mayhem is one man – the defendant in this case,” Mr. Kelly of Boston’s US Attorney’s office said, at the start of what’s expected to be a months-long trial.

He sketched some of the vivid and gruesome details the prosecution will present in making its case.

Kelly alleged that Bulger shot one victim in the back of the head – after mining him for information about rival criminals and taking $50,000 of his money – and then sat on a couch while associates buried the man in a residential basement.

Kelly said one witness and former Bulger associate recalls moving three decaying corpses from the house basement to be buried in a field – on Halloween of all nights – so the house could be sold.

On Day 1 of the trial the prosecution also showed visual evidence: a photo of Bulger-linked machine guns, an image of an alleged extortion payment (by check) for $200,000, and video showing Bulger conferring with associates and making motions with his arms and fists as if describing physical violence.

With Bulger on the run for 16 years after being indicted, his alleged crimes date back to an era of grainy black-and-white surveillance videos by law enforcement and a “Southie” section of Boston that was still a rough part of town dominated by Irish-Americans.

Carney said up front that the defense faces a “challenging task.”

He said he'll try to show "what happens in the prosecutors’ kitchen,” referring to the way that prosecutor goals – and the way those are perceived by witnesses interested in lighter punishment – can influence what witnesses say.

Carney said Bulger’s ties with FBI Agent John Connolly involved paying for information, not serving as an informant. This could become an important matter of contention during the trial, since some witnesses are former Bulger associates have also testified against Connolly (citing his relationship with Bulger) in the past.

Carney suggested that to become an informant was anathema to Bulger, since to “rat” went against the code of his Irish heritage.

Bulger is reportedly also eager to have the jury find him not guilty regarding the killings of two women in the 1980s.

While making no comment during his opening statement about most of the alleged murders, Carney sought to cast doubt regarding some of them – including the allegation that Bulger strangled Debra Davis (a girlfriend of his alleged crime partner, Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi) and Deborah Hussey (Mr. Flemmi’s stepdaughter) during the 1980s.

He asserted that Bulger had no motive in those murders, while Flemmi did.

The trial promises to pack some emotion along with Boston-mob intrigue.

Victims’ family members will be among the witnesses. Bulger himself may take the stand to rebut murder-related testimony by Flemmi. The two men, once “inseparable” as partners according to one witness who testified Wednesday, haven’t been in the same room for years.

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