EASTHAM — When James “Whitey” Bulger was convicted in 2013 on 31 counts of racketeering and 11 counts of murder, it took the jury less than a week’s deliberation to find the figurehead guilty during a trial which lasted only two months. By dint of comparison, Bulger spent approximately eighteen years as a fugitive on charges dating as far back as the 1970s.
One of those 12 jurors recently came forward proclaiming regret for her decision during Bulger’s sentencing. But not as a result of his innocence.
Janet Uhlar claims she received over 70 letters from Bulger following his conviction, some of which detail his experience as part of the CIA’s MK-ULTRA experiments into psychoactive, behavior modification and interrogation which took place over a twenty-year period between 1953 - 1973; a practice which allegedly included the administration of electrical shock therapy and LSD on unwitting subjects.
“Had I known, I would have absolutely held off on the murder charges,” Uhlar said in a recent interview with the Associated Press. “He didn’t murder prior to the LSD. His brain may have been altered, so how could you say he was really guilty?”
“This is huge. I mean, how many lives were affected by this? We have no idea.”
The CIA has never denied the existence of MK-ULTRA. Initially developed by chemist Stanley Gottlieb in the 1950s, the behavioral modification program first came to public attention during a 1975 joint congressional hearing which resulted in the uncovering of a cache of some 20,000 documents detailing the extent of the experiments two years later. Among the allegations reportedly administered during MK ULTRA have included electro-convulsive therapy, the administration of psychoactive drugs, hypnosis, isolation torture and repeated exposure to verbal and sexual abuse.
Uhlar’s claim of Bulger’s unwitting involvement in MK-ULTRA is bolstered by Bulger’s own alleged participation, an allegation the 88-year-old made approximately one year before his 2018 death.
“In 1957, while a prisoner at the Atlanta penitentiary, I was recruited by Dr. Carl Pfeiffer of Emory University to join a medical project that was researching a cure for schizophrenia,” Bulger wrote in an article for OZY Media in 2017. “We were injected with massive doses of LSD-25.”
"There was a CIA project code-named MK Ultra. The project was a violation of my rights, using prisoners for dangerous tests. I was angry reading that because I’d never mentioned how I felt hallucinating. I kept silent because I thought they might commit me to a mental institution.”
“He always seemed to be writing at one, two, or three in the morning and when I asked him why he said it was because of the hallucinations,” says Uhlar.
Not everyone is convinced of Bulger’s mental incapacity, however. Nor does everyone feel that Uhlar is a reputable source, citing numerous conspiratorial posts contained on her website. But Uhlar, who self-published a thinly fictionalized account of the trial two years ago, doesn’t necessarily refute Bulger’s involvement with racketeering. But she does question his mental state during the alleged murders.
“When I left the trial, I had more questions,” she says. “I’ve asked myself that many times. I’ll finish reading a letter and say, ‘Could he have?’
There has never been any official confirmation nor denial of Bulger’s involvement with MK-ULTRA, despite his insistence that he received criminal immunity from the New England Organized Crime Strike Force. Nor has any clinical diagnosis of his schizophrenia been made public. But local attorney Anthony Cardinale feels the even if his allegations were entered into trial proceedings, challenges would have arisen proving any insanity defense; not least of which was the result of 16-year status as a federal fugitive.
“The problem is, he lived for a very long time on the lam in a very secretive and a very smart way,” Cardinale told AP News. “But that doesn’t diminish the notion that, based on the LSD experiments, and the doses he was experiencing, he could have convinced himself of things that were not true, including that he had immunity from prosecution and could do whatever he wanted.”
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