The trial of James “Whitey” Bulger enters its third week Monday with more testimony from prosecution witnesses. Bulger is accused in a 32-count racketeering indictment of a long list of crimes, including participating in 19 killings. Here are some highlights from the courtroom last week:
The 83-year-old Bulger took notes on a legal pad and stared straight ahead during testimony. Bulger, whom prosecutors say is the 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. 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.
Former hit man James Martorano testified about murders he said he committed at the request of Bulger and Bulger’s partner, Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi. Martorano also described a 1975 killing he said Bulger and Flemmi did themselves. Martorano, who admitted killing 20 people, spoke in a clipped, businesslike manner while describing how he pumped bullets into people and shot up cars, but he said Bulger and Flemmi “sort of broke my heart” when he learned they had been FBI informants. Prosecutors also called to the stand family members of people they say were killed by Bulger and his gang and others who survived the attacks. The government also began the process of introducing Bulger’s FBI informant file into evidence. The prosecution says Bulger was a longtime informant who provided the FBI with information on the rival New England Mafia; Bulger’s lawyers deny he was an informant.
Under cross-examination by Bulger lawyer Hank Brennan, Martorano insisted he was not a hit man or a serial killer. He said he did not get paid for killing people but instead just did it as part of his work for Bulger’s gang, to help family or friends, or to defend himself. “I always tried to be a nice guy,” he said. The defense asked prosecution witness Ralph 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 Martorano and other Bulger associates expected to testify against him. “Absolutely,” 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.
Bulger’s defense attorneys filed a motion Saturday asking Judge Denise J. Casper to lift a gag order because it is infringing on Bulger’s Constitutional right of free speech. They cited “personal attacks” against their client in the media and “an enormous degree of media attention and public discourse.”
Prosecutors responded Sunday that Bulger is free to tell his story by testifying. They noted that Bulger spent considerable time before the trial trying to bar some reporters from the courtroom.
It was not clear when Casper would rule on the request.
Eleven men and seven women are serving on the jury, which includes six alternates. The trial is expected to last three to four months.
Academy Award winner Robert Duvall sat in the back of the courtroom Friday. The 82-year-old Duvall has had a long TV and film career, including starring roles in “The Godfather” and “The Godfather: Part II.” In those mob epics, he played Tom Hagen, a lawyer and adviser to the Corleone family. He has been shooting a movie, “The Judge,” in Shelburne, Mass., this month. Duvall plays the title character in the film.
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Former Boston FBI Agent John Morris is expected to testify Monday. Morris was the supervisor of John Connolly, who prosecutors say was Bulger’s handler as an FBI informant. Morris, who was granted immunity from prosecution, has admitted he accepted cash from Bulger’s gang.