BOSTON (AP) — The jury that convicted James “Whitey” Bulger in a series of gangland murders Monday also left some families shaken when it didn’t find him guilty in eight other killings — angering relatives who have waited decades to see someone pay for the deaths of their loved ones.
The federal jury found Bulger had a role in 11 murders, assuring the 83-year-old will die in prison, but found that his role in the remaining cases was unproven.
Steve Davis didn’t wait for the jury to be dismissed before he walked out of the courtroom appearing upset it issued no finding on the 1981 strangulation of his sister, Debra Davis.
One woman exclaimed, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” after the jury said prosecutors hadn’t proven Bulger’s role in the 1975 death of Francis “Buddy” Leonard, who was shot in the head.
A visibly angry Billy O’Brien told reporters that prosecutors “dropped the ball” after the jury didn’t convict Bulger in the 1973 shooting death of his father, William O’Brien.
“Five minutes they spent talking about his murder” during the trial, he said.
U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said prosecutors were disappointed Bulger wasn’t convicted on every murder charge, but respected the jury’s verdict.
“I hope that the victims, the families and many others who suffered tremendously and in some cases were actually destroyed by James Bulger’s criminal actions will take some solace in the fact that he will spend the rest of his life in prison, far away from the beaches of Santa Monica and far from the streets of South Boston,” she said.
Prosecutors said Bulger was a longtime FBI informant, who committed his crimes under the protection of corrupt agents.
Thirty-three separate criminal acts were included in the main racketeering charge against Bulger, including all of the killings. The jury had to find Bulger committed at least two of the acts within 10 years of each other to find him guilty of racketeering. The jury far exceeded that by finding him guilty in 11 murders, but the mixed result made Bulger’s conviction in the 1982 death of his father “very bittersweet,” said Thomas Donahue, son of Bulger victim Michael Donahue.
“There’s other families that didn’t get closure that we’re looking for, and that’s the same pain we’ve been feeling,” he said.
“He should have been found guilty for everything, everything,” Donahue said.
Retired state police Col. Thomas Foley, who wrote a 2012 book about his investigations of Bulger and testified during the trial, said the lack of a guilty verdict for some families “takes away from the satisfaction of getting this done.”
“It’s a hard pill to swallow for them and for us,” he said. “The government hasn’t been good to them.”
Suffolk University law professor Chris Dearborn said it was not surprising the jury didn’t convict Bulger of all the crimes the government alleged.
“You can’t blame the jury,” he said. “They heard from some really incredible and creepy witnesses. The three star witnesses for the government were proven liars and people who had cut deals with the government.”
Outside the courtroom, Davis said he had doubts whether Bulger actually strangled his sister, as Bulger’s former partner and his sister’s girlfriend, Stephen Flemmi, testified. But he’s certain Bulger was part of it, and the jury’s inability to make a finding in the case left him “stuck in the middle like I have been for 32 years.”
“Who’s winning here?” Davis asked. “I lost my sister. All these people lost family members. (Bulger)’s losing his freedom. What do you really win here?”