(UPDATED) Prosecutor: Bulger among Boston’s ‘most vicious’ criminals
A federal prosecutor acknowledged law enforcement flaws and that the Boston FBI office was once “a mess,” but told jurors deciding the fate of James “Whitey” Bulger that it shouldn’t matter and that they should convict the 83-year-old former mob boss.
“It’s not about whether or not the FBI office in Boston was a mess. It’s not a referendum on whether or not Kevin Weeks and John Martorano should be spending the rest of their lives in jail just like [Stephen] Flemmi. It’s about whether or not the defendant is guilty of the crimes charged in the indictment. He’s the one on trial here, ladies and gentlemen, not the government, not the FBI … not John Martorano, not Kevin Weeks,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Wyshak.
Closing arguments in the Bulger trial got underway Monday morning with Wyshak delivering his speech before the 18 jurors, including six alternates.
Wyshak began his closing argument by vilifying Bulger, calling him “one of the most vicious, violent and calculating criminals ever to walk the streets of Boston.”
Meanwhile, the defense spent its time talking to the jury about governmental responsibility and the credibility of the witnesses called by the government.
“The federal government is the most powerful force on Earth in terms of a government … but there is one instance when a small group of people can stand up to the federal government … you are those folks,” Bulger attorney J. W. Carney Jr. said.
Carney walked the jury through a criteria of five questions that he said was to help them judge the truthfulness of the government witnesses – Martorano, Weeks and Flemmi.
He asked the jurors at least four times if they could trust Flemmi.
Speaking about Martorano, Carney said he had an incentive to lie on the witness stand and included Bulger in stories of crimes.
“What Martorano did is add Bulger to every crime. It’s like a spice or a salt. Let’s just add Bulger to this,” Carney said.
As for Weeks, Carney asked the jurors “Kevin Weeks – any question in your mind he is still a thug?”
One of the most contested issues during the trial and remained so right up until just before the defense rested its case on Friday was the murder of Debra Davis. The government alleged Bulger strangled her, but the defense said it was Flemmi, her boyfriend, who killed her and Martorano testified that Flemmi told him he had killed her.
Wyshak told the jurors that it doesn’t matter who actually strangled her.
“You don’t’ have a decide who strangled Debbie Davis. That’s been an issue that’s contended in this case. What you need to decide is if Mr. Bulger has any criminal liability in this murder,” Wyshak said, pointing out that it was Bulger who allegedly ordered her death.
Besides spending some of the time explaining the legal aspects of the racketeering and other charges against Bulger, Wyshak told the jury not to get “distracted” by the defense team’s focus on other issues — like the question of Bulger’s informant status.
“Why has it been so hotly contested at this trial? Because Mr. Bulger cares more about his reputation as an FBI informant than he does about his reputation as a murderous thug,” Wyshak said.
Bulger rarely looked up from the defense table as Wyshak spoke. Bulger kept his head down and continuously wrote on a legal pad except for a moment when Wyshak walked over to the defense table and pointed at him. Bulger briefly looked up, then went back to writing.
Wyshak also addressed the issue of the fellow Winter HIll Gang members who were not in jail and who the government gave plea deals to.
“The government held its nose and made a deal with John Martornao. And what are the results, ladies and gentlemen? The results are Stephen Flemmi is serving life in prison. The result is John Connolly is serving 40 years for murder in a Florida prison,” Wyshak said.
After Wyshak concludes his closing argument, Bulger attorneys Hank Brennan and J. W. Carney Jr. will deliver separate closing arguments. Wyshak will then get a 30-minute rebuttal because the government has the burden of proof.
Follow Michael Naughton on Twitter @metrobosmike.