A Juror doubts Boston Mob Boss Whitey Bulger’s Conviction

James “Whitey” Bulger was known to the world as a notorious criminal. Although he had been in and out of prison since he was 14, he caused real terror in the city of Boston from the 1970s till the 1990s. He’s been associated with murders, trafficking, and extortion in various different cases. He was convicted based on eleven murders that he had been linked to by way of testimonials from various other criminals. 

The History

Janet Uhlar, one of the jurors that voted to convict Bulger for the murder charges has extensive knowledge of the foundational principles of American law. She is also the author of several books on the American Revolution. Her guilty verdict was based on the strong case against him in 2013. He was the most wanted criminal of his time in Boston and everyone was convinced about his guilt. However, years after finding Bulger guilty for the murders Uhlar regrets her decision based on new information that has come to light. 

Based on the evidence provided at the time, it was evident that Bulger was a crazed murderer on the loose. He was wanted for a list of things, murder being at the top of that list. He made sure to stay out of sight, on the run and hiding from the authorities for almost 16 years till he was arrested outside an apartment complex in Santa Monica, California in 2011.

Janet Uhlar

Janet Uhlar with letters and pictures she received from James “Whitey” Bulger.

Janet Uhlar’s Regret

Janet Uhlar was initially comfortable with her decision to find Bulger guilty. However, upon the discovery of CIA involvement with the prisoners, she felt guilty, and not so comfortable with her prior decision. She got to learn how the CIA was performing tests on prisoners and trying to alter their minds. This could have been one of the reasons why Bulger committed these heinous murders.

Her concerns were confirmed again once she read a new book on the subject by Brown University professor Stephen Kinzer titled “Poisoner in Chief”, that convinced her further of the involvement of the CIA. While she doesn’t believe that all of the criminal activity Bulger took part in was backed by the CIA, she does believe the judgment for the murders could be wrong.

Artists Impression of Whitey Bulger's Trial

Artist Impression of Whitey Bulger’s Trial

CIA’s mind-controlling Techniques

After going undetected for a while, the activities of the CIA eventually came out in the open. They aimed to control certain individual’s minds and make them do whatever was asked of them. To achieve this, they gave high doses of LSD to select prisoners who were monitored regularly to see if the experiment was working. The book Uhlar read focused mainly on how the former chief chemist of the CIA, Dr. Sidney Gottlieb tried to accomplish the notion of mind control by giving LSD doses to individuals without their consent.

Dr. Sidney Gottlieb who was behind MK-ULTRA, the CIA experiments with LSD

Dr. Sidney Gottlieb who was behind MK-ULTRA, the CIA experiments with LSD

Why did the prisoners agree to be part of the experiment?

While it is difficult to point to exactly who administered the doses in prison, the initiation of it was pretty simple. Prisoners were asked to take part in studies by telling them they were trying to find a cure for schizophrenia. They willingly obliged as they genuinely thought they were trying to help others with finding a cure. They were never told the truth. A lot of the prisoners would think that they were actually getting better; however, the experiment being conducting by the CIA was making them worse. 

When talking about Bulger, he was given the same option and was given regular doses of LSD. This altered his thinking gradually over time as they started administering greater doses. This practice wasn’t just limited to Bulger. Giving LSD to prisoners was a widespread practice at the time. Mostly, the prisoners were offered a reduced sentence, just like Bulger, and asked to take high doses of LSD. 

The CIA was able to do this mostly because the prisoners were easy targets and could be used to experiment on without causing a problem. This revelation made Uhler realize that perhaps the conviction of Bulger was wrong and the murders were possibly the side effects of the high LSD doses he got from the CIA approved experiments while in prison. 

Washington Post article regarding the CIA breaking the law by administering LSD to prisoners

Washington Post article regarding the CIA’s breaking of the law by conducting experiments on prisoners by administering LSD

Bulger’s Experience

Upon this discovery, Uhler started to write to Bulger to get his point of view. She was convinced that the FBI was involved in his forced conviction. This was mainly because the testimonials provided against Bulger were from other, high-profile criminals. All of these individuals whose testimonials may have been fabricated or exaggerated in return for a reduced sentence.

She wanted to know what he was given and what he underwent while in prison. Bulger explained in his letters that he was given large amounts of LSD. Because of this, he experienced a lot of complications during different hours of the day. He mentioned how he could not sleep as he would be haunted by never-ending nightmares and hallucinations.

There were instances, according to Bulger, where he was asked a lot of confusing questions. One of the most bizarre questions by people administering the LSD was whether Bulger would kill anyone. This proved that they set the idea in his head after giving him doses of a drug that would alter his thinking. To get concrete evidence, Uhler went through a lot of information already available regarding the CIA’s mind-controlling experiments and came across Project MK-Ultra. This was the main hub for administering LSD into prisoners to achieve the purpose of mind control. This made Uhler question whether Bulger was in his right mind when he committed those murders. The post-trial evidence strongly suggests that he possibly wasn’t in his right mind when he committed those atrocious crimes. 

Bulger, however, would never have been proven innocent, primarily because of his past crimes before he went to prison and was experimented on. There was also the thought of the families who wanted justice for the people he murdered. An acquittal was close to impossible given the large number of people whose lives he changed forever and frankly, wanted to see him rot in prison.

The Death Of Whitey Bulger

Uhler began to question herself after every letter she received from Bulger. She was confused about whether she was being manipulated by the former mob boss. After receiving about 70 letters from him, he was transferred to the United States Penitentiary, Hazelton in West Virginia where he was murdered at the age of 89 by another inmate, Fotios “Freddy” Geas. Freddy, a mafia hitman involved with the Genovese crime family from New York, murdered Bulger because of his hatred for “rats”.

Fotios “Freddy” Geas, the mafia hitman and prison inmate who killed Whitey Bulger

Fotios “Freddy” Geas, the mafia hitman and prison inmate who beat Whitey Bulger to death