Bulger Day 7: The Jurors Choke Up
So Whitey Bulger’s on trial and you’re interested in hearing about it, but you’ve got this darn day job and you can’t manage to keep up with all the live tweets. We feel you. Here’s what you missed. (Past coverage here.)
The Witnesses: The court heard from a comparatively large number of witnesses after several days dominated by the testimony of hitman Johnny Martorano. The prosecutors put a bunch of would-be victims and their relatives on the stand to identify photos of victims.
Perhaps the most stirring of them was the first witness, Diane Sussman de Tennen, who was in the car with Michael Milano when Johnny Martorano mistook him for his target and shot up his new Mercedes. Sussman de Tennen had at least one juror in tears as she described the car ride she took with Milano and her then-boyfriend Louie Lapiana that was interrupted by machine gun fire. The witness was shot once, Lapiana was paralyzed from the neck down, and Milano died of his wounds. She says it took her two years to break up with Louie. She married and had children in California, but Louie was in a nearby hospital and he remained a big part of her life. “My children grew up from infancy with Louie,” she told the court.
When asked on cross-examination whether she knew who shot her, she had to admit that she did not. Indeed few of the witnesses had direct knowledge to tie Bulger to their deceased relatives. But their emotional testimony about the impact the deaths had on them had more than one juror in tears by the end of the day.
The Unwilling Witnesses: Another notable witness was Ralph DeMasi, who did not come willingly to the stand, though he survived a botched attempt on his life. He’d previously refused to talk to investigators and served over 21 years in prison on charges involving a plot to rob an armed car. He described meeting with Tommy King, a rival of Bulger’s who is also an alleged murder victim. DeMasi had a bad feeling leaving the meeting and asked the driver, Billy O’Brien, to speed up if he saw a car coming fast in the mirror. “All of a sudden, a car pulls up, people start shooting at us. When it was over, Billy O’Brien was dead, I got eight bullets in me.”
The defense actually used DeMasi, the government witness, to pretty good effect, asking him if cooperative government witnesses ever lie in exchange for leniency. The judge sustained an objection to the question, but DeMasi answered, “Absolutely!” anyway. Oops. He also complained that someone like Martorano, who admitted to killing 20, could serve much less time in prison than someone like DeMasi, who admitted to killing no one. “That’s how the system works,” he said, which is exactly what the defense is trying to emphasize about the government’s key witnesses.