One by one, Wyshak wound through the 32 counts of the indictment against Bulger, which span the alleged gangster’s reign as the head of Boston’s Winter Hill gang in the 1970s and '80s, and include charges of murder, money laundering, extortion, and gun hoarding.
But even as Wyshak outlined the voluminous evidence against Bulger, he spent much of his three-hour closing argument cautioning jurors to ignore what he called a raft of “irrelevant issues” and evidence that the defense has attempted to draw into the case.
In particular, at issue throughout the long trial has been Bulger’s status as an informant for the Boston office of the FBI – an allegation he has repeatedly denied.
“In the final analysis, ladies and gentlemen, you don’t have to decide whether Mr. Bulger was an informant or not,” Wyshak said. “That’s not something that’s an element of any of these crimes. So why has it been so hotly contested in this trial? Because Mr. Bulger cares more about his reputation as an FBI informant than he does about his reputation as a murderous thug.”
Putting it even more succinctly at another point, he told jurors, “whether he’s an informant or not, he’s a murderer.”
Much of the evidence the government brought against Bulger throughout the trial came in the form of testimony by former criminal gang members, several of whom brokered deals in their own cases in return for testifying against their former boss.
During his closing argument Wyshak urged the jurors not to allow the questionable character of those mobsters affect how they interpreted the testimonies.
“It’s not whether you like the witness,” he said. “Nobody likes these men.”
Instead, he said, the jury was obligated simply to consider the facts – many of them brutal and damning. During the trial, several of Bulger’s closest former associates, including his business partner, Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, hit man John Martorano, and one-time Bulger protégé Kevin Weeks, repeatedly testified to either witnessing or directly participating in execution-style murders directed by Bulger – hits against rivals, bystanders, and others who threatened the gang’s ability to run their South Boston criminal world.