'Whitey' Bulger Jury Sifts Evidence Behind Body Count

PHOTO: Whitey Bulger TrialStuart Cahill/Boston Herald/Polaris
James 'Whitey' Bulger is escorted from by U.S. Coast Guards in Boston, June, 30, 2011.

After nearly two months of testimony from crooked FBI agents and stone-cold killers who relived decades of bloodletting in Boston, the jury in the James "Whitey" Bulger trial began deliberating the notorious accused mob boss' fate today.

Bulger is charged in a sweeping racketeering indictment that includes 19 murders, including the strangling of two young women.

His trial has been a colorful one with the 83-year-old geriatric gangster trading expletives with his former criminal cohorts in the Winter Hill Gang who testified against him.

Jurors have heard testimony from 63 government witnesses including underworld figures who arrived at court in wheelchairs and in oxygen masks to describe being victimized by Bulger. One drug dealer told the court he was forced to play Russian roulette with Bulger and his crew during a shake down. A bookie described being forced to stand on a plastic tarp and told "that's to make the mess easier to clean up" as the father of five was extorted for $100,000.

The Violent Life of "Whitey" Bulger

There was testimony from hitmen like John Martorano, who confessed to killing 20 people, some accidentally. There was Stephen "the Rifleman" Flemmi, who was convicted of murdering 10 people and has since confessed to slaying another 10, including his own girlfriend and stepdaughter. Another killer, Kevin Weeks, threatened to "step outside" with Bulger's lawyer from the witness stand.

"I'm sad that it's over,'' said journalist Howie Carr, who has written three books on the Winter Hill Gang, including one called "Hitman" that he co-authored with Martorano. "This has been the most explosive trial I have ever covered. I cannot remember anything like this."

But aside from the underworld parlance of yesteryear – words like "boilers" for stolen cars and "heaters" for illegal guns – delivered in Boston accents so thick that some out-of-town journalists needed to have local reporters translate, jurors were also privy to a spotlight on a staggering amount of corruption in the Boston FBI field office.

Bulger's defense attorneys called it "an unholy alliance" between FBI agents and murderers and testimony showed that the sordid deals extended to the upper levels of federal law enforcement.

The FBI's embarrassing handling of Bulger and Flemmi was exposed after Bulger went on the run in late 1994, tipped off to an indictment by dirty agent John Connolly, the same indictment that he is finally on trial for now nearly 20 years later.

Bulger and his companion Catherine Greig were fugitives until June 2011 when they were captured at a rent-controlled Santa Monica apartment two blocks from the picturesque beach where they lived as Charlie and Carol Gasko. Bulger had secreted $822,000 in cash behind the walls and 30 high-powered weapons, many of them loaded, around the apartment.

In closing arguments Monday a federal prosecutor told jurors that Bulger was ''one of the most vicious, violent and calculating criminals ever to walk the streets of Boston.''

Bulger's defense attorneys fired back at the government saying that the testimony against their client "was bought and paid for" from despicable killers who are now "walking among us" on the streets of Boston.

The Bulger case has inspired the Oscar-winning movie "The Departed" and a slew of television shows. Until his capture, Bulger was the FBI's Most Wanted fugitive, second only to Osama bin Laden.