Years after crime boss and FBI informant Whitey Bulger was convicted of murder, extortion, and drug trafficking in Boston between 1970-1990s, a juror who voted for his conviction said she regrets her decision after she learned he was part of the CIA's experimental drug tests in the 1950s.
Janet Uhlar was one of the 12 jurors who voted Bulger guilty of a series of crimes, including murder of 11 people despite sufficient evidence that proved he was supported by a network of corrupt FBI officials in the crimes. He was 81 years old when he was found guilty in 2013 and was given two consecutive life sentences. He was killed by inmates in 2018 at the United States Penitentiary in Hazelton, West Virginia.
Experimental drug tests in 1957
Uhlar's regret stemmed from more than 70 letters that Bulger wrote to her from prison, which included details of his unwitting participation in a secret CIA experiment with LSD, she told the Associated Press.
She believes pertinent information such as the CIA dousing him with powerful hallucinogen more than 50 times when he was serving time in Atlanta Penitentiary in 1956 would have turned the case had his lawyers brought them up in his federal trial.
"Had I known, I would have absolutely held off on the murder charges," she said. "He didn't murder prior to the LSD. His brain may have been altered, so how could you say he was really guilty?" adding that he would have, however, been tried for the other criminal charges, including money laundering, extortion, racketeering, and weapons.
Victim of CIA chief's contentious project: MK-ULTRA
Uhlar had previously expressed her regret after reading a book about the experimental drug tests overseen by contentious CIA chief Sidney Gottlieb in his search for a mind-control drug in the 1950s in a project named MK-ULTRA. Bulger, along with 18 other inmates at the Atlanta prison, were willingly experimented upon by Gottlieb for 18 months in which they were given powerful hallucinogens such as LSD in exchange for reduced sentences. They were told the tests were part of medical research into a cure for schizophrenia.
"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."
'Sleep was full of violent nightmares'
After noticing the letters were often dated at 1 or 2 in the morning, Bulger told Uhlar that it was because of the recurrent hallucinations. "Sleep was full of violent nightmares and wake up every hour or so — still that way — since '57," he wrote.
Referring to his former prison on Alcatraz Island, in San Francisco Bay, he said: "On the Rock at times felt sure going insane. Auditory & visual hallucinations and violent nightmares — still have them — always slept with lights on helps when I wake up about every hour from nightmares."
Bulger also recalled the supervising physician, the late Carl Pfeiffer of Emory University, and said the technicians who would monitor his response to the LSD asked questions such as "Would you ever kill anyone? Etc., etc."