BOSTON — Lawyers in the trial of former mobster James ‘Whitey’ Bulger on Monday will sum up eight weeks of testimony from former hitmen, FBI agents, smugglers and extortion victims about a string of murders blighting Boston’s past.
The closing arguments come after Bulger denounced his murder and racketeering trial as a sham on Friday and refused to testify in a case that captured national attention, recalling a bygone era when mobsters toting machineguns left a trail of unsolved killings as they fought for control of the criminal underworld.
Since the beginning of the trial on June 12, prosecutors have sought to paint Bulger, once one of America’s most feared gangsters, as a hands-on killer who participated in 19 slayings when he ran Boston’s Winter Hill Gang in the 1970s and 1980s.
While Bulger has pleaded not guilty, his attorneys conceded at the start of the trial that he had been involved in extortion, smuggling and loan sharking. But they point out that many of the witnesses against him were ex-criminals with plea deals and that FBI evidence against Bulger may be tainted by corruption and mismanagement.
Bulger, 83, who was captured two years ago after 16 years on the run, has pleaded not guilty. He put a dramatic end to testimony on Friday when he angrily told U.S. District Court Judge Denise Casper that the trial was a sham and that he would not testify.
“My thing is, as far as I’m concerned … this is a sham and do what you want with me,” he said, standing in a dark collarless shirt, jeans and white sneakers.
Bulger’s story has haunted Boston for decades and highlights a dark period for the FBI in the city when corrupt agents wined and dined gangsters and gave them tips that helped them evade arrest and identify snitches.
Bulger was listed as an FBI informant for years while running the Winter Hill Gang and claimed to have struck a deal with a now-deceased assistant U.S. attorney protecting him from prosecution. Casper ruled Bulger’s attorneys could not use any talk of immunity in their defense.
Bulger fled Boston in 1994 after a corrupt FBI agent warned that he was about to be arrested. He was captured in 2011 in Santa Monica, California, where he had been living with his girlfriend in an apartment with stacks of cash and weapons.
Bulger’s story inspired the character played by Jack Nicholson in Martin Scorsese’s Academy Award-winning film “The Departed.”
Massachusetts prosecutors said on Friday they believed the death of a potential witness in Bulger’s trial last month was unrelated to the case. They said the man, who claimed Bulger had stolen his liquor store from him, apparently had been poisoned by a business associate who acted alone.