Af­ter learn­ing of Whitey Bul­ger LSD tests, ju­ror has re­grets

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - NEWS - By Michael Rezen­des

EASTHAM, MASS. >> One of the ju­rors who con­victed no­to­ri­ous crime boss James “Whitey” Bul­ger says she re­grets her de­ci­sion af­ter learn­ing that he was an un­wit­ting par­tic­i­pant in a covert CIA ex­per­i­ment with LSD.

Bul­ger ter­ror­ized Bos­ton from the 1970s into the 1990s with a cam­paign of mur­der, ex­tor­tion, and drug traf­fick­ing, then spent 16 years on the lam af­ter he was tipped to his pend­ing ar­rest.

In2013, Janet Uh­lar was one of 12 ju­rors who found Bul­ger guilty in a mas­sive rack­e­teer­ing case, in­clud­ing in­volve­ment in 11 mur­ders, even af­ter hear­ing ev­i­dence that the mob­ster was helped by cor­rupt agents in the Bos­ton of­fice of the FBI.

But now Uh­lar says she re­grets vot­ing to con­vict Bul­ger on any of the mur­der charges.

Her re­gret stems from a cache of more than 70 let­ters Bul­ger wrote to her from prison. In some, he de­scribes his un­wit­ting par­tic­i­pa­tion in a se­cret CIA ex­per­i­ment with LSD. In a des­per­ate search for a mind con­trol drug in the late 1950s, the agency dosed Bul­ger with the pow­er­ful hal­lu­cino­gen more than 50 times when he was serv­ing his first stretch in prison — some­thing his lawyers never brought up in his fed­eral trial.

“Had I known, I would have ab­so­lutely held off on the mur­der charges,” Uh­lar told The Associated Press in a re­cent in­ter­view. “He didn’t mur­der prior to the LSD. His brain may have been al­tered, so how could you say he was re­ally guilty?” At the same time, Uh­lar says she would have voted to con­vict Bul­ger on the long list of other crim­i­nal counts, mean­ing he still would likely have died in prison.

Uh­lar has spo­ken publicly about her re­gret be­fore but says her be­lief that the gang­ster was wrongly con­victed on the mur­der charges was re­in­forced af­ter read­ing a new book by Brown Univer­sity pro­fes­sor Stephen Kinzer: “Poi­soner in Chief: Sid­ney Got­tlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Con­trol.” The book digs into the dark tale of the CIA’s for­mer chief chemist and his at­tempts to de­velop mind con­trol tech­niques by giv­ing LSD and other drugs to un­sus­pect­ing in­di­vid­u­als, in­clud­ing col­leagues, and ob­serv­ing the ef­fects.

“It was en­cour­ag­ing to know I wasn’t los­ing my mind, think­ing this was im­por­tant,” Uh­lar said. “It told me, this is huge. I mean, how many lives were af­fected by this? We have no idea.”

Got­tlieb’s se­cret pro­gram, known as MK-ULTRA, en­listed doc­tors and other sub­con­trac­tors to ad­min­is­ter LSD in large doses to pris­on­ers, ad­dicts and oth­ers un­likely to com­plain. In Bul­ger’s case, the mob­ster and fel­low in­mates were of­fered re­duced time for their par­tic­i­pa­tion and told they would be tak­ing part in med­i­cal re­search into a cure for schizophre­nia.

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