'Whitey' Bulger Won't Testify, But He Didn't Finish Quietly
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
The defense rested today in the trial of James "Whitey" Bulger. And after months of testimony and anticipation, the notorious mobster opted not to take the stand. As NPR's Tovia Smith reports, Bulger is on trial in Boston and faces a sweeping racketeering indictment that includes 19 murders.
TOVIA SMITH, BYLINE: Even though he declined to testify, Bulger did manage to get his point across, ranting in court about what he called an unfair trial. Bulger was asked by the judge if he was giving up his right to testify voluntarily, and he barked back that it was involuntary because he was being, quote, "choked off from giving an adequate defense" and from explaining what he claims was an immunity deal with the FBI.
Before the trial began, the judge barred that argument saying no one would have had the authority to give anyone such a, quote, "license to kill," so it can't be enforceable and it can't be a defense. In court, Bulger chided that decision and called the trial a sham. His attorney, J.W. Carney, had little to add to reporters after.
J.W. CARNEY: The statement made by Mr. Bulger was 100 percent his words and his views.
SMITH: Some relatives of Bulger's alleged victims groaned in disappointment that Bulger was taking a pass. Patricia Donahue, whose husband was shot to death in 1982, shouted out, you're a coward.
PATRICIA DONAHUE: If you think that the government has done wrong by you, then get up there and talk about it.
SMITH: Donahue and her son, Tom Donahue, said they were frustrated not only because they wanted to hear the former mob boss answer for his alleged crimes but also to hear him testify about the government's alleged misconduct.
TOM DONAHUE: The prosecution did an unbelievable job of showing what type of animal and savage he was, but also the FBI was on trial here.
SMITH: It was a constant theme of Bulger's defense that corruption ran wide and high within the government and law enforcement and that Bulger was paying off corrupt FBI agents and getting information rather than giving any. That left victims' families in the odd position of cheering both sides in the case: the prosecutor going after Bulger and defense attorneys attacking the government.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: You put up a hell of a fight and...
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Unintelligible) for you?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: You know, you did great.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: I wish I could've done more.
SMITH: Steven Davis, brother of another alleged victim, gave a warm, hearty handshake to one of Bulger's lawyers after months of listening to all the testimony.
STEVEN DAVIS: We were fighting two fights. And going on this side, getting them to drag information out of certain witnesses and then the government side hoping for their conviction.
SMITH: It was another surprise in court today regarding the more than $800,000 in cash that Bulger was caught with when he was found. Defense attorneys have contested whether it was subject to seizure, but today Bulger said he would voluntarily forfeit the money if it was given to victims' families who had sued the FBI for leaking information that lead to their loved ones' murders.
The families won their case, but never got any money because of a technicality, so Bulger moved to direct the money to them.
DONAHUE: I was overwhelmed with that. I wasn't expecting that.
SMITH: Tom Donahue found it a fair gesture, but Pat Donahue saw it as a little more than a lame attempt by Bulger to make himself out to be the, quote, "good bad guy," as she says Bulger always has.
DONAHUE: It's sickening, sickening that he would think that this is going to be a gesture that's going to make him a good guy. You know, there's no good guy in him. There's nothing but evil in him, and that's not going to persuade anybody any other way.
SMITH: The jury's expected to hear closing arguments on Monday and begin deliberating Tuesday. Meantime, some answers after court today on what happened to one of Bulger's alleged victims who was on the list to testify but was found dead last month under suspicious circumstances. Prosecutors say they think he was poisoned, but that it was unrelated to the Bulger trial. Tovia Smith, NPR News, Boston.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.