Whitey Bulger trial: 'Rifleman' Flemmi describes 'death house' murders (+video)
Stephen 'the Rifleman' Flemmi, in a third day of testimony, told of four murders he said Boston crime boss Whitey Bulger carried out himself, three at the same South Boston home.
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Flemmi’s graphic testimony is a key element of the prosecution’s case, backing up two other main witnesses against Bulger – Kevin Weeks and John Martorano – who have already testified. The goal: provide the jury with corroborating testimony that proves beyond a reasonable doubt the 32 racketeering charges, including 19 murders, against Bulger.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Sentenced! James 'Whitey' Bulger
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With a federal indictment bearing down on the pair in 1994, Bulger fled Boston and lived on the run for 16 years before being caught, while former partner Flemmi was arrested and eventually confessed to 10 murders – escaping the death penalty through a deal with prosecutors.
Some of the gang's victims were killed spontaneously, Flemmi said. Barrett, for instance, was shot by Bulger without warning inside the same South Boston home where Hussey and McIntyre were murdered. Barrett’s shooting shocked Flemmi, he said, because the victim was standing between him and Bulger. When Flemmi complained that the bullet could have gone through Barrett and hit him, Bulger told him, “that was an asinine statement.”
In the case of Debra Hussey, his stepdaughter, he testified that he returned from time on the lam in Canada to find her hooked on drugs, living on the edge and frequenting Boston’s “combat zone” – Boston's notorious prostitution district at that time. At one point, a bookmaker complained to Flemmi that she had robbed him of $800. Not long after, Bulger determined that Hussey was a liability who might at any time identify the gang. So the decision was made by the gang, and by Flemmi, “reluctantly” to kill her.
With prosecutors finishing their questioning of Flemmi, defense attorney Henry Brennan piled into Flemmi, accusing him of sexually abusing Hussey, who he noted once called Flemmi “daddy.” Flemmi has admitted having sexual relations with Hussey that were “consensual,” calling it moments of “weakness.”
Defense questioning of Flemmi will likely continue to probe discrepancies in Flemmi’s account of his relationship with Hussey and to paint him as a sexual predator and child molester, legal experts say, to turn the jury against him and discredit his overall testimony about Bulger.
But the government will have taken this into account, these experts say. Whatever weaknesses may exist in the testimony of either Flemmi, Mr. Weeks, or Mr. Martorano, the slack will be picked up by the others.
“Each of the witnesses the government brings forward has their own baggage,” says Michael Coyne, associate dean of the Massachusetts School of Law. “You have rapists, loan sharks, and drug dealers who poisoned their own community for years. These are really bad people. But when the jury looks back at the totality of the testimony, they’re going to find a consistent thread – it was Whitey in charge of the criminal enterprise.”