BOSTON (AP) — James “Whitey” Bulger is on trial in a 32-count racketeering indictment accusing 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, was one of the nation’s most wanted fugitives after he fled Boston in 1994. He was captured in 2011 in Santa Monica, Calif., where he had been living with his longtime girlfriend in a rent-controlled apartment. His 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 was shattered when authorities started digging up bodies.
Prosecutors called family members of people allegedly killed by Bulger and his gang, as well as two people who were wounded when cars they were riding in were hit by a hail of gunfire. Donald Milano, the brother of Michael Milano, cried as he recalled hearing about his brother’s death on the radio. Confessed killer John Martorano testified earlier this week that he shot Milano in a case of mistaken identity. Diane Sussman de Tennen, a passenger in Milano’s car that night, described how she ducked down when she heard machine gun fire. When it was over, she saw Milano slumped over the steering wheel, dead, and her boyfriend seriously wounded in the back seat. Her boyfriend was left a quadriplegic from the shooting. She was shot in the arm.
Bulger’s lawyers asked few questions of the victims’ relatives. Sussman de Tennen acknowledged that she didn’t see who shot at the car. Ralph DeMasi, a man who was in a car with William O’Brien when he was shot in 1973, also said he did not see the shooters. During cross-examination, Bulger’s lawyer asked DeMasi if during his time in prison, he learned that inmates who become government witnesses know they can get “extraordinary benefits,” an obvious reference to plea deals struck by ex-hit man John Martorano and two other Bulger associates who are also expected to testify against him. “Absolutely,” DeMasi said. In an apparent reference to Martorano, DeMasi said, “Guys are walking the street after they killed 20 people, if they cooperated.” Martorano served 12 years in prison after cutting a deal with prosecutors to testify against Bulger.
Eleven men and seven women are serving on the jury, including 12 regular jurors and six alternates. The trial is expected to last three to four months.
The defendant stared straight ahead through most of the testimony.
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More family members are expected to testify Friday.