"He's 4 or 5 steps ahead of everyone... every time." Those words were spoken to me in 2008 by Howie Winter. A founding member of the Winter Hill Gang, Howie told me while I was a correspondent at "America's Most Wanted" that he doubted law enforcement would ever track down James "Whitey" Bulger.
Now, here we are -- preparing for opening statements in the case of The United States Of America vs James "Whitey" Bulger. The final straw: a federal judge deciding against delaying opening statements and opting for the trial to begin in earnest. Defense Attorney Jay Carney had requested a delay until June 17th. This time he's seeking information about a secret state police investigation into allegations of more government cover-ups. Carney demanded access to the investigation and yelled at the judge: "The government wants to cover this up and hide it--that's the theme from the last 20 years!" Surely, Carney will attack the government in his opening statement as he sets out the theory of his case. The government will paint another picture: Whitey Bulger as the ruthless leader of a criminal empire. Whitey Bulger killing 19 people. Whitey Bulger the rat.
Judge Denise Casper will instruct the jurors: "Do not make up your mind of what the verdict will be. ... Keep an open mind." Many in the courtroom, however, will not have an open mind. The family members of the 19 people allegedly killed at the hands of Mr. Bulger will sit intently and watch -- many of them expected each and every day from the moment the gavel strikes. For them, this moment marks the final chapter in their search for justice.
What will they hear? If pretrial motions are any indication -- they will see fireworks and hear accusations unlike any they have probably heard before. Everything from allegations of government corruption to cover-ups, from beatings and drug dealing -- to murder. The two sides have no love lost for each other -- and now the battle begins.
It's a battle that will most likely take the entire summer- perhaps longer. A battle that will pit old friends against one another. A battle that -- most likely will blur the lines between credibility - even perhaps, making proven liars star witnesses.
Watch Jon Leiberman and Margaret McLean discuss opening statements on Wednesday night at 8pm Eastern.
Jon Leiberman And Margaret McLean are authors of the upcoming book "The Gavel Strikes: United States v James "Whitey" Bulger.
Follow Jon Leiberman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/reporterjon