BOSTON — James “Whitey” Bulger called his racketeering trial a “sham” Friday as he revealed he would not testify in his own defense, a decision that prompted a cry of “coward!” from the widow of a man he is accused of killing.
The highly anticipated decision came after Bulger met with his lawyers behind closed doors for about 20 minutes.
After attorney J.W. Carney Jr. announced the decision, Judge Denise Casper asked Bulger if he had consulted with his lawyers and if he was making the decision voluntarily.
With the jury out of the room, Bulger told the judge his decision was made “involuntarily.”
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“I feel that I’ve been choked off from having an opportunity to give an adequate defense,” he said. “My thing is, as far as I’m concerned, I didn’t get a fair trial, and this is a sham, and do what youse want with me. That’s it. That’s my final word.”
Bulger railed against the judge’s decision prohibiting his lawyers from using an immunity defense. Bulger has claimed he received immunity from a now-deceased federal prosecutor, Jeremiah O’Sullivan.
“For my protection of his life, in return, he promised to give me immunity,” Bulger told the judge.
Casper ruled before the trial that the supposed immunity was not a legal defense to crimes, including murder.
“I understand, sir, if you disagree with it,” Casper replied.
Relatives of Bulger’s suspected murder victims looked dejected over his decision not to take the stand. Patricia Donahue, the widow of one suspected victim, yelled: “You’re a coward!” while Bulger was speaking.
“If you think you had an unfair trial, then get up there and tell all,” she said outside the courtroom afterward. “I am so disappointed in this whole trial. I thought that at least he would be man enough to get up there.”
Bulger, 83, is on trial in a broad racketeering indictment that accuses him of participating in 19 murders in the 1970s and 1980s as leader of the Winter Hill Gang. He has pleaded not guilty.
He fled Boston in 1994 and was one of the nation’s most wanted fugitives until he was captured in Santa Monica, Calif., in 2011.
O’Sullivan, who died in 2009, headed the New England Organized Crime Strike Force and was known for his aggressive pursuit of cases against local Mafia leaders, Bulger’s rivals.
Outside the courthouse, Carney said Bulger was describing an agreement he claims he had with O’Sullivan under which “in return for assuring that Jeremiah O’Sullivan would not be killed, O’Sullivan promised him that he would not be prosecuted for as long as O’Sullivan was head of the strike force.”
Carney did not elaborate, but Bulger seemed to be implying that O’Sullivan’s life was in danger because of his pursuit of the Mafia.
After Bulger made his remarks, the defense rested its case.
Prosecutors and Bulger’s lawyers are scheduled to make their closing arguments to the jury Monday. The jury is expected to begin deliberations Tuesday.