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Bulger Jury Deliberations Drag On, But What Does It Mean?

The jury in the Whitey Bulger trial has deliberated for five days without a verdict, but legal experts say that doesn't offer any clue to whether they will acquit or convict the accused Boston mob boss.

"The length of time means nothing," said Anthony Cardinale, a Boston defense lawyer who has closely followed the federal trial.

He said he once sweated through three weeks of deliberations on another case only to find out jurors agreed to drag out their talks because one of them couldn't be laid off if he was still serving past a certain date.

Conventional wisdom may hold that the longer a jury is behind closed doors, the lower the chance of a conviction, but that hasn't been the case in some high-profile murder trials.

A Los Angeles jury took just four hours to acquit O.J. Simpson of murdering his wife and her friend in 1995, while jurors deliberated 36 hours before finding actor Robert Blake not guilty of killing his wife in 2004.

Casey Anthony was acquitted of the murder of her daughter by a jury that deliberated 10 hours in 2011. A panel that met for 14 hours in 2012 convicted Drew Peterson of murdering his third wife.

In May, after 15 hours of jury deliberations, Jodi Arias was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of her ex-boyfriend. Two months later, a jury deliberated 16 hours before acquitting George Zimmerman of second-degree murder in the shooting of Trayvon Martin.

The Bulger jury has 48 counts to sift through, and for one of those counts, they have to decide if the government has proved he committed 33 individual racketeering acts, including 19 murders.

On Thursday afternoon, there was some indication the panel was considering one of the last counts in the indictment, possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number, when they asked to examine the weapon, a submachine gun.

But they spent all day behind closed doors on Friday before telling the judge they had not reached a verdict. The eight men and four women, who are not sequestered, return to court Monday.

Boston defense attorney Harvey Silverglate, who has been keeping tabs on the Bulger case, said that even though the evidence against him appeared strong and he didn't put on a robust defense, he is not surprised the jury hasn't announced a verdict yet.

The hangup, he said, may be the evidence that rogue FBI agents were in bed with Bulger's Winter Hill Gang as he allegedly held sway over South Boston with a mix of murder and menacing.

"Some of the jurors must be offended and shocked by the behavior of the FBI that has come to the fore," Silverglate said.

"Some of the jurors may be interested in nullifying — voting to acquit even in the face of overwhelming evidence of guilt on at least some of the charges."

Silverglate predicted that the jury would eventually convict Bulger of enough crimes to put the 83-year-old behind bars for the rest of his life but find him innocent of others — "sending a message to the Department of Justice and the FBI that citizens expect better from their government."

Cardinale said the jurors might be stuck on whether Bulger strangled two women: his partner's girlfriend, Debbie Davis, and his partner's stepdaughter, Deborah Hussey.

The partner, Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi, testified that Bulger ordered and then carried out the killings, but he faced a withering cross-examination from the defense.

"But I don't see him beating the racketeering charge and many of the other murders," Cardinale said. "They didn't even put a defense up."


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