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attacks on evil witnesses
In fact, attorney Jay Carney freely admitted that over two decades as the leader of South Bostons infamous Winter Hill gang in the 1970s and 80s, Bulger made millions engaging in criminal activity.
But instead of lingering over the individual charges in the 32count indictment which include involvement in 19 murders Mr. Carney and his cocounsel Hank Brennan trained a laserlike focus on what they said was the prosecutions colossal mishandling of the case, from covering up decades of corruption in the local branch of the FBI to building its case around wildly unreliable witnesses.
The governments star testimony was provided by three mobsters with close ties to Bulger, despicable, evil, terrifying men, Carney said, whose very livelihoods were built on lying to police, victims, and each other.
He went on to systematically interrogate the credibility of those men Stephen Flemmi, John Martorano, and Kevin Weeks each of whom took a plea deal in their own criminal proceedings in return for testifying against Bulger. Mr. Weeks served five years for participation in five murders, while Mr. Martorano spent 12 years in jail after admitting to 20 killings. Mr. Flemmi, the last to cooperate, used his cooperation to avoid the death penalty.
The government is buying testimony; the witnesses are selling, Carney said. The currency thats used here? How much freedom a person is going to get. But ladies and gentlemen, the price that you pay for testimony gives you no assurance that its the truth.
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Meanwhile, Mr. Brennan argued, the prosecution refused to probe what he called an endemically corrupt local FBI office, where agents doggedly pursued Bostons fearsome Italian mafia at all cost while turning a blind eye to Winter Hills activities and tapping its leadership for information.
They wanted the accolades, they wanted the glory, and they were willing to protect murderers because of pride, Brennan said. It wasnt about protecting the community this was about their quest to get the mafia.
Although not formally part of any charge, Bulgers relationship with the local FBI has been a fraught subject throughout the trial. Prosecutors say he was an informant who fed the agency information for decades. Bulger admits to bribing FBI agents for information, but flatly denies he was a rat, and at one stage of the trial verbally attacked a witness who claimed he was.
Neither side, however, denies Bulgers offcolor relationship with former FBI agent John Connolly, who saved Bulger from arrest in 1994 by tipping him off to an indictment against him. Bulger fled Boston and was not seen again until 2011. Mr. Connolly is currently serving a prison term in Florida.
But Brennan said the prosecution was letting Connolly take the fall for a deeply corrupt institutional culture.
There has to be an accounting, he said, for all the criminals tied up in Bulgers world. It doesnt matter if theyre part of a gang, if theyre independent, or if theyre part of the government.
The threehour defense statement followed a morning of closing arguments from prosecuting attorney Fred Wyshak, who urged the jury not to be distracted by the defenses attempt to suck them into discussions about Bulgers ties to the FBI.
In the final analysis, ladies and gentlemen, you dont have to decide whether Mr. Bulger was an informant or not, Wyshak said. Thats not something thats an element of any of these crimes.
But Carney said the jury had a responsibility to peer into the holes in the governments case.
There is one instance where a small group of people can stand up to the federal government and successfully take it on you are those folks, Carney told the jury. You can say it with courage, that the prosecutors have not met their burden of proof.