BOSTON — James “Whitey” Bulger said Friday that he would not testify at his trial, which he called a “sham,” prompting a cry of “coward” in the courtroom from the widow of a man he is accused of killing. His decision also deflated the hopes of many in this city who had yearned to hear him tell his story in his own words.
Bulger, 83, the onetime kingpin of South Boston’s faded underworld, stood at the defense table in a dark shirt and blue jeans and did not explain his decision. But in belligerent remarks to the judge, he complained that he had been barred from putting forth his full defense, which was that he had been given immunity by the Justice Department to commit his crimes — that he had been given, in effect, a license to kill.
“I feel that I’ve been choked off from having an opportunity to give an adequate defense,” he declared.
It was in some ways a surprising choice of words, given that the court had heard testimony that Bulger had strangled two women.
Bulger said he had wanted to explain that he had an agreement with Jeremiah O’Sullivan, the former head, now-deceased, of the Justice Department’s New England Organized Crime Strike Force. “For my protection of his life, in return, he promised to give me immunity,” Bulger said, not specifying from whom he would protect O’Sullivan.
The judge, Denise Casper, noted that she had considered his argument earlier and ruled that he would not be allowed to make it. She said she understood if Bulger disagreed with her ruling.
“I do disagree,” he replied, “and that’s the way it is. And my thing is, as far as I’m concerned, I didn’t get a fair trial, and this is a sham. And do what yous want with me.”
At that point, Pat Donahue, whose husband, Michael, was a bystander killed in a hail of bullets in 1982 while giving a ride to an intended Bulger target, yelled from the spectator seats: “You’re a coward!”
The jury, out of the room on a break, heard none of this, but the fate of Bulger, whose exploits have gripped Boston for decades, will soon be in their hands.
Lawyers are scheduled to make their closing arguments Monday. The judge plans to instruct the jury on Tuesday and the jurors, who are not being sequestered, will then begin deliberations.