Margaret Small / AP file
This courtroom sketch depicts James "Whitey" Bulger at the beginning of jury selection for his trial in U.S. District Court in Boston in June.
Whitey Bulger, the reputed mob boss, was “one of the most vicious, violent and calculating criminals ever to walk the streets of Boston,” a federal prosecutor told jurors Monday in a closing argument.
The prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Wyshak, said that Bulger could not be separated from the gangsters who turned federal informants and testified against him at his murder and racketeering trial.
“It was James Bulger who chose these men to commit crimes with, to murder with,” Wyshak said, invoking Bulger’s given name. “The reason these men are here testifying before you in this courtroom is because of the choices James Bulger made in his life.”
Bulger's defense team, meanwhile, turned on the federal government, accusing the prosecutors of giving favorable treatment to cold-blooded killers so they would testify against their client.
Three men said to be among Bulger’s top allies — Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, John “The Executioner” Martarano and Kevin Weeks — were among the critical government witnesses at Bulger’s two-month trial.
They told the jury that they murdered rivals and suspected turncoats on orders from Bulger.
“The evidence in this trial has convincingly proven that the defendant was one of the most vicious, violent and calculating criminals to ever walk the streets of Boston,” Wyshak said.
The defense countered by asking why Martorano and Weeks, who together were convicted of playing a role in 25 killings, were walking free. Martorano served 12 years in prison and Weeks served five in exchange for testifying against Bulger.
“You have to sit there and ask yourself: Why are they still walking the streets? If they are so vicious and violent and our government knows about it, why are they still out there right now?” defense lawyer Henry Brennan told the jury, according to the Reuters news service.
He added: “Is there something in your stomach that just resonates and says, ‘There’s got to be more. There’s got to be more to this story?’” Brennan said.
Defense attorney J.W. Carney said the three one-time Bulger players moved to "add a little Bulger to the mix" to virtually every crime they were questioned about in order to get their sentences reduced, according to The Associated Press.
Carney contended that their testimony was purchased by prosecutors.
"The witnesses are seeling their testimony to the government," he said. "The currency that's used here: How much freedom is the person going to geret? The currency is the power of the government to keep someone locked up in a cell, surrounded by four concrete walls topped by barbed wires."
Bulger, 83, who was one of the country’s most-sought fugitives before he was captured in California in 2011, is accused of ordering or taking part in 19 killings as the leader of the notorious Winter Hill Gang in the 1970s and ’80s. He is charged with racketeering, extortion, money laundering and other crimes.
Prosecutor Fred Wyshak, during the government's closing argument, offered gruesome details of the murders Bulger stands accused of carrying out or planning.
"They hunted their targets," Wyshak said. "These men didn't hunt animals, ladies and gentlemen, they hunted people."
On Friday, with the jury out of the room, Bulger told the judge he was declining his right to take the witness stand in his own defense. He called the trial a sham and said: “Do what you want with me.”
Bulger’s defense team has described him as a small-time drug-dealer and loan shark, but not the kingpin who ruled once ruled South Boston and inspired Jack Nicholson’s character in “The Departed.” Bulger has also denied that he was an FBI informant.
Jurors are expected to begin deliberations Tuesday.
The trial has paraded before jurors a colorful cast with nicknames like "The Rifleman" and "The Executioner." It has also included sordid and graphic testimony about strangulations and hit men — and has been punctuated with profane outbursts from the defendant.
Daniel Arkin of NBC News, as well as Reuters and The Associated Press, contributed to this report.
First published August 5 2013, 4:35 PM