06/12/2013 06:07 pm ET Updated Jun 14, 2013

Whitey Bulger's Testimony In Murder Trial Is Not A Guarantee

BOSTON -- James "Whitey" Bulger might not be as eager to explain himself as his attorney once promised.

Last year, the 83-year-old former gangster's attorney vowed that his client would waive his Fifth Amendment protections and take the witness stand.

"James Bulger will testify at this trial and he will present evidence, corroborated by others, that he received immunity from the Department of Justice," attorney J.W. Carney said to an Associated Press reporter. The defense is arguing that Jeremiah O'Sullivan, the United States attorney in Boston in the early 1980s, granted Bulger immunity from criminal prosecution.

Just a few days ago, before the trial started, the defense still intended to have Bulger testify in his own defense, according to media report.

Wednesday morning, as the long-awaited racketeering trial got underway in a Boston federal courthouse, Carney sharpened his rhetoric during his opening statement, ridiculing the cohort of criminals lined up as government witnesses. He also flatly denied the government's accusation that Bulger was passing along secrets to the FBI. But during his remarks, he never mentioned if Bulger -- the former Winter Hill Gang boss -- would open himself up to questioning about the murder, extortion and weapons charges he's facing.

"Jay Carney has hinted all along that his client was going to testify and take the stand in his own defense," said Boston College law professor and legal affairs expert Margaret McLean. "But he did not do that, because the risk is too great.

"He has the right to remain silent, so if a lawyer promises that your client is going to take the stand, but then your client decides not to, the jury may hold that against the defense. It's a promise that you cannot keep," McLean told HuffPost.

Carney, citing a court-ordered ban on talking with the media, declined to answer questions from The Huffington Post.

In court, he compared a meal prepared in a restaurant to the accusations made against Bulger by law enforcement and former gang associates out to save their own necks. "What we're going to do is show you what happens in the prosecution's kitchen before the witness gets to you," said Carney.

Carney told jurors that his client made millions from illegal activities and stayed ahead of the game by bribing police. But, he said, that's not why he's on trial, so it's up to the jury to acquit Bulger.

The chance that Bulger might avoid answering for his alleged crimes angered Steven Davis. His sister Debra Davis was strangled by Bulger, according to prosecutors. Bulger's lawyers say that one of Bulger's former colleagues killed her.

"It would give me a good amount of justice knowing what he had to say," Davis told HuffPost. "It's like reading a book and leaving the last two chapters unread. You're never going to know the whole story."



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