BOSTON - Jurors have begun deliberating in the racketeering trial of alleged Boston mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger.
After listening for nearly two hours as Judge Denise Casper reviewed the 33-count indictment and delivered instructions, the jury was handed the case Tuesday morning.
Casper told jurors not to base judgment on the fact that Bulger, 83, declined to testify. That's his constitutional right, Casper said.
She also told jurors that they may take into account how plea deals with the government might have impacted testimony from certain witnesses. Each of the three key witnesses in the trial - John Martorano, Kevin Weeks and Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi - has received benefits in exchange for agreeing to testify against Bulger.
Bulger is charged under a 32-count federal indictment with participating in 19 murders during a two-decade reign as South Boston crime boss and leader of the Winter Hill gang.
The 83-year-old had fled Boston and eluded authorities for 16 years until he was arrested in Santa Monica, Ca., in 2011.
Often gruesome testimony in Bulger's trial portrayed him as an active participant in several slayings.
Prosecutors wrapped their closing arguments, calling Bulger one of the worst criminals in U.S. history.
But Bulger's defense team said the government's key witnesses were pathological liars who had cut deals to reduce prison time - or worse.
Flemmi pleaded guilty to 10 murders, but escaped the death sentence. Martorano, who admitted murdering 20 people, served just 12 years behind bars. Weeks, released after serving five years, previously admitting to being an accessory to several murders.
(Copyright 2013 by USA Today. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. )