BOSTON (CBS/AP) — A federal appeals court has agreed to a defense request to remove the judge who was set to preside over the trial of accused gangster James “Whitey” Bulger.
The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns must step down from Bulger’s case.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Lana Jones reports
Bulger’s lawyers argued that Stearns should be removed from the case because he was a federal prosecutor in Boston in the 1980s. At the time, Bulger was working as an FBI informant while allegedly committing crimes, including murder.
Bulger claims he received immunity for his crimes from another federal prosecutor who worked in the same office as Stearns while Bulger was giving the FBI information on the Mafia.
Read: The Ruling
Bulger’s lawyer, J.W. Carney says he will appeal the immunity ruling to the new judge saying James Whitey Bulger is ready to take the stand.
“Mr. Bulger is very much looking forward to testifying,” said Carney. “He wants to explain to everyone how it was from 1972 to 1994 federal prosecutors never charged him with anything.”
Carney says Bulger’s testimony will “include direct and corroborating evidence that he received immunity, and that it was not because he was an informant. We intend to call all relevant witnesses, even if they are judges, a Director of the F.B.I., and former United States Attorneys.”
U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said in a statement Thursday they respect the court’s opinion and will continue to prepare for trial.
“We are hopeful that this opinion will not cause a delay, as it has always been our goal to have this case tried as soon as possible. The victims’ families have waited long enough,” Ortiz said.
Carney does not believe there will be any delay in the start to the June 6 trial.
“The judge who is assigned to this case will not have to review 400,000 pages of documents in order to preside over the trial,” said Carney. “On the other hand, we did.”
Shawn Donohue says when he was a child, Bulger killed his father Michael. With the judge now removed, he hopes more information comes out.
“Most people feel he should just be sentenced and put away but the victims in the case would like to know the full truth and the only way we are going to get to the truth is if he has an opportunity to fight for immunity,” Donohue told WBZ-TV Thursday.
Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly’s David Frank calls the decision to remove Stearns three months before the trial a “legal whopper.”
“The court looked at the historical record here and basically concluded that Judge Stearns was part of the U.S. Attorney’s office at a time when serious questions are going to be raised about what was going on there,” Frank told WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Lana Jones.
WBZ-TV’s Beth Germano and Denise Lavoie, AP Legal Affairs Writer contributed to this report