A Guide to the Trial of James “Whitey” Bulger
Prosecutors and defense attorneys are wrapping up the James “Whitey” Bulger trial with closing arguments. The case is expected go to the jury Tuesday. A 32-count racketeering indictment accuses him of a long list of crimes, including participating in 19 killings. Here’s a look at the case against him, his defense and what’s happening in the courtroom:
The 83-year-old Bulger, the alleged former leader of the Winter Hill Gang, cultivated an early image as a modern-day Robin Hood who gave Thanksgiving dinners to working-class neighbors and kept drug dealers out of his South Boston neighborhood. But that was shattered when authorities started digging up bodies. He fled Boston in 1994 and became one of the nation’s most wanted fugitives until he was captured in 2011 in Santa Monica, Calif., where he had been living with his longtime girlfriend in a rent-controlled apartment.
Federal prosecutors called 63 witnesses over 6½ weeks. The defense called 15 witnesses over one week. (There were 77 witnesses altogether because one testified for both sides.) There was much speculation about whether Bulger would take the stand, but last week he said he would not. He complained that the judge did not allow his lawyers to argue that he had received immunity for his crimes in exchange for protecting the life of a now-dead prosecutor. “My thing is, as far as I’m concerned, I didn’t get a fair trial, and this is a sham, and do what youse want with me. That’s it. That’s my final word,” he said with the jury out of the room.
Some of the most memorable testimony on the prosecution side came from former Bulger associates Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, John Martorano and Kevin Weeks, the same people jurors must find credible in order to convict Bulger. All testified in graphic detail about murders they said Bulger commissioned or participated in. On the defense side, the most compelling moment was Bulger’s brief exchange with the judge about the trial being a “sham.” Some of the most interesting testimony was from former FBI supervisor Robert Fitzpatrick, who testified that he tried to terminate Bulger as an informant because he was not providing helpful information, but his bosses would not let him. The defense tried to show Bulger wasn’t an informant in hopes of undercutting the credibility of prosecution witnesses. Bulger’s lawyers claim his supposed FBI handler, John Connolly, fabricated Bulger’s FBI file to advance his own career at a time when bringing down the Mafia was a national priority for the FBI.
Eleven men and seven women make up the panel of 12 jurors and six alternates.
The jury is expected to get the case Tuesday.
Flemmi is expected to continue his testimony on Monday.
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