Victims’ Families Couldn’t Get Whitey Bulger to Look at Them During Sentencing

Family members of his victims confronted the aging gangster in court.



The Whitey Bulger sentencing is more symbolic than it is functionally purposeful. Since his capture, and especially since his guilty verdict, it has been assumed that the 84-year-old gangster would die in prison. Whether U.S. District Court Judge Denise Casper gives him the prosecution’s exact recommended sentence tomorrow matters only for the delayed justice it represents.

And so, more than usual, the victim statements at the sentencing hearing carry weight mostly for the catharsis they bring the speakers. Perhaps because of that, Judge Casper said she would allow even the family members of those victims whose murders the jury didn’t pin on Bulger to speak.

Bulger knows that his cooperation in the affair won’t change its outcome, which may be why he is trying to pretend as if it is not going on around him. Bulger’s lawyers declined to make an opening statement or to recommend a sentence, citing the client’s continued belief that the trial was a “sham.” Asked if he wanted to speak, Bulger said, simply, “No.” He spent much of his trial scribbling furiously on a notepad in front of him, and he resumed the position today, this time dressed in an orange jumpsuit. A few family members of victims tried, in vain, to make eye contact.

Patrick Callahan, son of John Callahan, took the stand to tell the court that “Life as I knew it forever changed,” when his father’s body was found shot to death in the trunk of his Cadillac. “You won’t even turn around and look at us, coward,” he told Bulger as he left the stand.

Theresa Bond, Bucky Barrett’s daughter began by asking, “Mr. Bulger will you please look at me?” He didn’t. Bulger was accused of shooting her father in the back of the head, then going upstairs to take a nap as his associates disposed of the remains. Still, she said, “Mr. Bulger, do you have remorse for taking my fathers life? I think you do. I forgive you.”

Less magnanimous was Steve Davis, the often outspoken brother of Debra Davis, “This man has built up so much hate in my heart I’d like to strangle him myself,” he said. “You piece of shit, look at me.” Bulger put on his glasses and looked away.

Not all the animus was directed at Bulger. Many continued to blame the FBI for the corruption that enabled Bulger. And in one ugly moment, the son of William O’Brien shouted that the woman who had spoken just before him wasn’t, in fact, a daughter of his father, prompting her to shout back until the Judge could refocus the proceedings.

The greatest ire, though, was reserved for Bulger. “An intellectually, physically, mentally deficient sad old man,” Sean McGonagle called him, as the aging inmate made every attempt to act as if he couldn’t hear him.